MI5 to run more informers
Plans to give British military intelligence an enhanced role in
the North of Ireland are being strongly opposed by nationalists.
MI5 is expected to be given the lead role in handling informers
and agents in the North ahead of the PSNI Special Branch. The
move was couched in new legislation being published today,
intended to enable the potential transfer of policing and justice
powers from London to any new Belfast administration.
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said: "We are totally opposed to
any MI5 role in intelligence gathering, let alone giving it the
"In the circumstances of restored political institutions, we
believe it should be the responsibility of the government in the
North (of Ireland) to deal with all of these matters.
"Anyone who knows anything about the history of MI5 knows it has
played a very negative role in events in the North over the past
Mr McGuinness said that a member of MI5 once tried to encourage a
leading unionist paramilitary to throw a large bomb through the
window of a house he was living in in Derry.
"The experience of MI5 among republicans has been very bad and I
have to say anyone who thinks it is acceptable for MI5 to have a
role in intelligence gathering is living in cloud cuckoo land."
The organisation is believed to be preparing to move from
Stormont outside Belfast to a British Army barracks in Holywood,
County Down in preparation for its increased duties.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan raised the issue with British prime
minister Tony Blair yesterday when he met him in the London
PSNI chief Hugh Orde claimed that his primary function would now
be combating crime and that therefore his men would handle
informers in this area. But in an interview with the BBC he
confirmed that MI5 would have the lead role in relation to
"national security", while the PSNI would deal with "republican
Mr Orde described this change as a "very healthy split" of
Mr Durkan, however, said he was very concerned at the proposals.
"While the British government gives with one hand, with technical
legislation facilitating the devolution of justice and policing,
it is taking away with the other by removing intelligence
gathering from the PSNI and giving it to the faceless men of MI5.
"This weakens accountability. It is bad for policing and bad for
politics. It must be challenged," he added.
Sinn Feins Gerry Kelly also said the proposals were
The role of the securocrats within both the Special Branch and
MI5 needs to be reduced and ended, not supported and expanded,