Last night, two British soldiers were assassinated at the Massereene army base in Antrim, a few dozen kilometers north-west of Belfast. This village, in a county of the same name, has been associated for almost four centuries with the Skeffington family from Leicestershire. The present holder of the Massereene viscountcy is 68-year-old John Skeffington. His father, John Skeffington [1914-1992], the 13th Viscount Massereene, was Deputy Lieutenant for County Antrim.
Back in 1981, Lord Massereene helped me personally get started in my Skeffington genealogical research, whose results are now available at
In 1922, Massereene's castle at Antrim was set on fire by members of the Irish Republican Army, resulting in the destruction of many ancient Skeffington archives.
In pointing out that the army barracks carry the same name as the viscountcy, and that the former viscount was already the target of a terrorist attack in this same village, I do not however intend to suggest that these associations might have any bearing whatsoever on the reasons behind yesterday's assassinations.
A dissident republican group known as the Real IRA has claimed responsibility for the assassinations. A British government specialist in counter-terrorism said that Antrim might have been chosen simply because it was a "soft target": that's to say, an engineering base with minimal protection. Whatever the explanation, let us hope that this stupid act is not going to rekindle the fires of hatred and terror that burned for far too long already in Ulster.