Mi5 and the shifting of goalposts…

Here’s an interesting modular and flexible approach to policing. Special Branch may be a shadow of its former self, but as Chris Thornton reports MI5 is looking for former officers to staff its new headquarters. The British government appears to be driving its own hard bargin. Alex Attwood, who has long been a critic of Sinn Fein’s negotiating focus on getting ministers rather than the actual quality of oversight notes:

“This shows you cannot take MI5 at their word,” he said. ” That is why you need strong legal powers to hold them to account. It is why the SDLP does not want MI5 to have the proposed enlarged role and it is why we are calling for the Police Ombudsman to be able to investigate complaints against them in the North.”

  • parcifal

    Has anyone told martin ingram ?


    So on the other thread Chris Gaskin tells us the MI5 situation is resolved. And here we find out that MI5 is, in a sense, reconstituing the old RUC. Sure, they won’t be involved in “civic policing”, which is what SF is going to endorse in the form of the PSNI, so that’s alright then. What a f-in joke.

  • parcifal

    previous poster .. a question?
    when is it time to leave the past behind?

  • middle-class taig

    Attwood’s having a laugh. Had he not jumped on policing (and pushed the rest of the SDLP to do likewise) before any noticeable change had occurred and with the deal half done, nationalism wouldn’t be in is current weak bargaining position on the issue . Part of the reason why it’s so hard to get concessions from London on policing is because they don’t want to shaft the SDLP by showing how much more was on offer. Same reason why the DUP has delivered so little for unionism. I wonder if there are SDLP whispers in Tony’s ear not to give too much for precisely that reason. Makes you think who might be making those representations on the SDLP’s behalf. Suppose we’ll never know.

    Attwood desperately needs to avoid comments of this kind. They cement the increasingly prevalent view of him as the SDLP’s greatest weakness and a liability for nationalism: the statement is devoid of content, suffused with inane rhetoric (“you can’t trust MI5” ya don’t say!!), focussing more on bad-mouthing SF than getting anything of value for nationalist communities.

    “This shows you cannot take MI5 at their word,” he said. “ That is why you need strong legal powers to hold them to account.” So, having had Alex on the Policing Board for years, how come we don’t even have the powers to hold the PSNI to account, never mind Five?

    Whataboutery never produces the most compelling argument, and SF certainly haven’t delivered the killer blow on policing that would have made an Ard Fheis a cakewalk, but it’s hard to listen to rhetoric of this kind from the dauphin of post-nationalism. Plastic bullets, anyone?

    There comes a point when you have to ask why the SDLP keeps exposing Attwood on these issues. It certainly doesn’t do his own political career any good. It’s not clear to me how a man who has presided over a drop in popularity for his party in his constituency from 2.75 quotas to 1.01 quotas in less than a decade is still involved in professional politics. In any other walk of life, it’s hard to see how such failurte would not result in a P45. Stalingrad? He’s a one man electoral Little Big Horn. One is always left with the conclusion that Attwood gets air-time any more is because he can be relied on to hammer SF with venom normally only mustered by the Paisley family. He clearly relishes the attack-dog role, but he needs to realise that moderate nationalists like myself find it thoroughly distasteful. His concession speech at the 2001 Westminster count was a case in point – goading Adams supporters that Gerry had been elected to the BRITISH parliament.

    I for one am uncomfortable with the SDLP sacrificing West Belfast in this way. SF needs effective opposition in that area. What will they do with Attwood when he loses his seat? The Lords? surely not!? The Senate? Pointless.

  • mi5 ruc psni = british rule

    parcifal the past is over and done with. what i object to is the dressing up of the present and future as if it is not what it is. sf will pretend that a united ireland is around the corner in 2016, that they have won the war, that the brits are leaving, that mi5 aren’t really here, that the ruc is no more, that the psni is just “civic”, that endorsement of them does not meant they are well and truly entrenched in the british state (as if they aren’t already). tell me the truth instead of lies. that is what annoys me.

    the revolution is over, stop trying to pretend that politics as usual is “another phase of the struggle” (gag).

  • An Bearnach

    There’s something here I don’t quite get, but perhaps young Master Gaskin can set it right. Sinn Fein’s bottom line is that MI5 should not have a role in ‘civic policing’, but the thing is that MI5 has no such role even in England. MI5 can not, without police assistance, make an arrest. Looks like they are preparing a climbdown. Their problem is that Sinn Fein did so much damage to the concept of the PSNI collecting intelligence that they paved the way for MI5 to come in. Not only is MI5 beyond the accountability mechanisms that govern the PSNI, there will not even be a ban on them recruiting old Special Branch hands. The point is not who collects intellingence, it is accountability and governance. The keys are the Policing Board and the Ombudsman. Watch out for a Sinn Fein somersault in January.

  • kensei

    “Attwood’s having a laugh. Had he not jumped on policing (and pushed the rest of the SDLP to do likewise) before any noticeable change had occurred and with the deal half done, nationalism wouldn’t be in is current weak bargaining position on the issue”

    High Five! o/\o

    I’d love the SDLP blogging committee that’s popped up the last few days to explain that one.

  • ingram


    Has anyone told martin ingram ?

    Thanks for the concern mate but the salary scale is not attractive.The other thing is I like a challenge. This job will be just babysitting this forthcoming generation of Republicans. The present one has been defeated and the sheep just need to be herded once in a while down from the hills. LOL

    In relation to Mr Attwood.

    The pool of experienced operators in MI5 is very small.This process of recruiting from SB/FRU has been going on for a few years and even before the Islamic threat which has only increased further the pressures upon a very small pool of trained and experienced men and women.

    During the troubles MI5 had less than 10 active handlers in NI.Their role was more in a technical role and in Handling An Garda Siochanna officers . The majority of this field work was carried out by RUCSB/FRU although on occassions they would CO Handle an asset. The FRU had approx 100 Handlers on station at any one time and the SB at least double that figure.

    Since the late nineties MI5 have been recruiting most of the experienced FRU/SB Handlers. The point is that this is not an overnight transition and is just part of the overall HMG strategy to remove the veneer from the offending wood and replace with a more aesthetic appealing one. It is only common sense and patently obvious that BOX once they take primary responsibilty for the collection of Republican Intelligence would recruit EX FRU AND RUC SB Handlers.That has been going on now for a long time. The transition will just be like rebadging the UDR to the RIR. Same troops same operators. Simple.

    These officers have a lifetime of experience.This activity is not one that should or could be given to the inexperienced.If Sinn Fein or indeed the SDLP think they are getting anything else then both are being very naive.

    That said. I would prefer a bunch of Whitehall toff`s to be in nominally in charge and responsible rather than a biggoted prod from the Sandy Row. That is just a personal belief I am sure others will have a different perspective.

    Merry Christmas


  • lib2016


    Let’s be honest for once. The ‘toffs’ (and their bits of rough from the grammar schools) are here to keep an eye on the ‘prod’ from Sandy Row. There will be lots of diliberately offensive gestures from your political masters in the next few years since the one thing they fear is being stuck here.

    They are withdrawing from the West as we post and will do the same in the East within a decade. As for financing one office block on a site they already own? Lots of army property in the West to sell off to developers from the tiger.

    BTW All this time here and you still can’t refer to Sandy Row in the local vernacular? No wonder the Brits have made such a bags of things.