The issue of MI5 reform hasn’t quite gone away. Or at least that’s what the SDLP hopes. Their line has consistently been that Sinn Fein negotiated ‘backwards’ from a deal where there would be partial oversight by the Policing Ombudsman, to no local oversight whatsoever. This was their statement this morning before a meeting with Hugh Orde:From Dolores Kelly:
The MI5 issue casts a long shadow over the North. The British Government still resists facing up to the issue. The Blair/Adams agreement to give MI5 a bigger and deeper role in Northern Ireland is a strategic error by Sinn Fein and a potential threat to the stability of the North.
The PSNI know the risks of a bigger, deeper role for MI5. The PSNI should therefore endorse the recommendation of the Police Ombudsman in her McCord Report and outlined at her press conference that there needed to be “equally effective” oversight of national security in the future as her office has in the present. The meeting with the Chief Constable will push the police on this and on:
– The numbers of ex-Special Branch people being recruited by MI5
– Given that MI5 was the source of monies paid to Mark Haddock, and given the claim that RUC intelligence requirements were set “at the highest levels in Whitehall,” does this not prove the threat and deep risks of MI5 having a bigger, deeper role in the North?
– In addition to MI5 already running republican agents of influence, will they have responsibility for even more republican agents in the future?
These questions go to the heart of the MI5 threat. The SDLP again calls on Sinn Fein to come “onside” with the SDLP on our proposals for oversight and complaints mechanisms for any MI5 involvement in the North. Sinn Fein have bought “a pig in a poke” with the Blair/Adams agreement on MI5 – Sinn Fein should back away now in the interests of everyone.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty