Irish Republican News · February 7, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Fears over role of new British police agency


Concerns have been raised after a new British police force known as ‘Britain’s FBI’ received the go-ahead to begin operation in the Six Counties.

The NCA (‘National Crime Agency’) is set to have full operational power in the Six Counties from May after the assembly voted in favour of a newly-drafted bill, with only Sinn Fein still expressing reservations.

While the NCA has been operating in the north with limited powers, their full introduction had been blocked.

However, the British Home Secretary can now extend the powers and remit of the NCA in Ireland, including the power to run informers, without reference to the Six County administration at Stormont.

Unionists have insisted the agency is necessary to tackle the North’s criminal gangs, who were blamed this week for a series of pipe bomb incidents and alerts linked to a supposed ‘turf war’ between rival gangs.

But given the history of British ‘policing’ in the North, there are fears that the NCA could now operate as a street-level offshoot of British military intelligence, or as a ‘force within a force’.

While the assembly had been told that it will now be accountable to the Policing Board and the Police Ombudsman, Sinn Fein said the negotiations “ended prematurely” and that further clarification are needed.

Sinn Fein did not seek to veto the development, but the party’s policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly claimed the SDLP had “jumped too early”.

“Under this proposal, the British home secretary can extend the powers and remit of the NCA without reference to the executive, the assembly or even Westminster,” he said.

“This opens up questions about the NCA’s relationship with MI5 and other security services. MI5 has no arresting arm in the north and we do not want the NCA to assume that role.”

The Republican Network for Unity said the new force had entrenched Ireland’s position as “one of the most heavily spied on places in the world”.

They said the SDLP had “capitulated” on the issue with only a vague promise that they had secured accountability, and linked the NCA to the FRU (Force Research Unit or Field Reconnaissance Unit), a secret military intelligence unit which worked with loyalist double-agents to carry out pro-British killings through the 1980s.

“The public is left wondering who they will be accountable to and what checks and balances have been put in place to ensure that the NCA won’t act as a modern version of the notorious FRU,” they said. “The conveyor belt of internment and false arrests is set to increase.”

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