Irish Republican News · May 15, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
DUP to get files on republicans

The appointment of two senior members of the DUP to the Privy Council, allowing the party to gain access to high-level security intelligence, has been criticised by nationalists.

Deputy leader Peter Robinson and Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson are to join their party leader Ian Paisley on the council and will be entitled to be referred to as “the Right Honourable”.

It is understood agreement on the appointments stretches back to the St Andrews negotiations last October but has only been made public following the restoration of power-sharing.

The move allows the DUP to access all files held by MI5, British Army and the PSNI police and will receive security briefings by British military intelligence staff. It is understood that classified information on republicans and other political opponents is among the information being made available to the DUP’s team.

The Privy Council is among the oldest structures of the British government. It was established - the word ‘privy’ meaning ‘private’ or ‘secret’ - as a committee of advisers to provide confidential advice to the King, and later the cabinet.

Mr Paisley said: “Our Privy Councillors, together with the DUP Police Board members, will adopt a monitoring role over all security and intelligence matters over the coming months and years.”

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said, however, the appointments were “not in the spirit” of the events of last week when power-sharing was restored and an Executive formed.

Appointments to the Privy Council “should not be made on the basis of a party political contrivance,” he said.

“This step corroborates the concerns we have consistently expressed about British Government plans for MI5 in Northern Ireland including what was agreed at St Andrews,” the Foyle MP added.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Ministers of the Belfast Executive have carried out their first formal engagements to emphasise a “new era” of local power-sharing government in the North.

The Assembly held its first formal debates yesterday, with Sinn Féin putting up no opposition to a unionist motion for the Assembly to join the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

The Assembly, however, rejected a Sinn Féin proposal to establish a special working group to examine how to increase the number of women in the chamber.

An apparent ‘honeymoon period’ saw Sinn Féin adopt a neutral view of a UUP motion for the Assembly to apply to join the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association alongside British colonies and former colonies such as Gibraltar, Cyprus, and Malta.

While Sinn Féin did not approve of the call from DUP member Jeffrey Donaldson for the 26 Counties to join the Commonwealth, it did not challenge the main motion.

Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin said: “Our approach to this matter is that while this is not, as you would understand, a primary matter of interest for us, neither should we create any obstacles to those who feel it reflects their particular cultural, political and social affinity.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News