MI5 role ‘under negotiation’

Controversy is brewing over plans in the St Andrews proposals to embed British military intelligence into the Six-County establishment.

In an annex to last week’s document, the British government indicated that the PSNI police will work arm-in-arm with the notorious ‘spooks’ of MI5.

The document also suggested that former members of the RUC/PSNI may be hired to staff a MI5’s expansion in the North of Ireland.

The Security Service is due to take over anti-terrorism control from the PSNI next year and is building headquarters in Palace Barracks, near Holywood.

The document says that intelligence will be shared by using PSNI officers as intelligence analysts and advisors in the new MI5 HQ.

The SDLP’s Alex Attwood said a spotlight was now being shone on the role of MI5 and state policing.

“The St Andrews agreement includes an MI5 paper. This represents a start of the negotiation,’’ he said. “The negotiation is far from finished.’’

He said his party wants to ensure that a new Six County Justice Minister and the First Ministers’ office would have access to information about MI5’s activities.

“There are advances in this document, but there are going to be tough negotiations between now and November to get that to a substantial place,” he said.

The British government has also opened up the possibility that a DUP MP could be appointed to the London parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, that oversees the handling of MI5 and MI6.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly has previously described MI5’s increased control over all so-called “intelligence” matters in the North -- including the surveillance of republicans and the handling of informers -- as an attempt to prejudice the transfer of policing powers in favour of British state.

The North’s most murderous death squads, including the assassination team which killed Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane, included MI5 operatives.

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