MI5 Building to be Westminster Plan B?

Courtesy of Newshound, Newton Emerson has an intriguing theory about the new MI5 building in Holywood – originally published in the Irish News. Difficult when, as he acknowledges, so many facts are unknown, not least the actual cost involved. But he has some facts to work with in assessing MI5’s role in Northern IrelandFrom Newshound

Both Sinn Féin and the British government now discuss MI5’s role in Northern Ireland in terms of ‘civic policing’. This phrase is so absurd that it is unlikely to have occurred to both sides independently. There has never been any suggestion of a role for MI5 in routine law enforcement. Holywood was not chosen for MI5’s largest base of operations outside London so that bored spooks could set up speed-traps on the Bangor dual-carriageway. However, the site is right beside an airport, a port, a railway, the hub of the motorway network and the seat of Northern Ireland’s civil administration. Can this be a coincidence?

Here are a few more facts which may cast some light on the mystery. Eliza Manningham-Buller, the outgoing director general of MI5, says that a chemical, biological or radiological attack on London is “only a matter of time”. MI5 has been closely involved in drafting Operation Sassoon, the evacuation plan for London in the event of such an attack.

The plan calls for 300,000 people to leave the city, but only because this is the largest number that can be evacuated without the resulting chaos costing more lives than it saves. Everyone else will be “invacuated” ie told to stay at home and tape their windows shut.

As a result, even a small dirty bomb will paralyse London for weeks and there is no prospect of the British government invacuating itself for the duration.

Most official buildings in London are connected by a network of tunnels 30 metres below ground leading to war-rooms and ‘citadels’ from which the country can be run in an emergency. In 1955, scientists from the Ministry of Defence’s Porton Down research centre released harmless spores into a section of the tunnels beneath Whitehall to see if they would spread. The classified results, leaked to Channel 4 News in 2001, found that the spores had “readily penetrated” supposedly secure areas, leading to “extensive contamination of many Whitehall buildings”. Further experiments concluded that the rest of the tunnel network was equally useless.

So here is an explanation that might make sense of all these facts. Belfast has been chosen as an alternative site for national MI5 operations and related government functions in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack. It was chosen because it is the UK’s most remote and ethnically homogeneous major city, making it easy to secure against follow-up attacks. Mindful of local sensitivities, the Sinn Féin leadership was kept informed and language was agreed to neutralise the issue, leaving an uninformed SDLP standing on the Bangor dual-carriageway waving placards. Unionism neither knows nor cares.

How ironic that London is threatening Belfast with a Plan B.

Belfast is London’s Plan B.

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  • seabhac siúlach

    So, can we still say that Britain has no ‘selfish strategic or economic’ (note, the lack of comma between selfish and strategic…ah, perfidious Albion…) interest in the six counties?? It might have no ‘selfish strategic’ interest (whatever that ever meant) but it clearly now has a strategic one if this report is to be believed.
    Wasn’t the idea that Britain was somehow neutral towards the six counties part of the peace process, that she had no interest in the place any more apart from upholding the principle of Unionist consent?
    If true, this story shows that there is little interest on the part of British govt. to disengage from the six counties, so one must (again) ask, what were the Provos playing at in their recent ‘negotiations’ with the Brit govt.? Or where they perhaps only there to take their orders from their new paymasters? Some ‘republicans’ these…

  • Cromwell

    Thanks Newton for making Belfast the secondary target. Where are you living at the moment?
    Duck & cover.

  • Jamie Gargoyle

    Would co-ordinating things from GCHQ in Cheltenham not be a bit more likely? It’s about half the distance from London and doesn’t involve a sea journey for a start…

  • It being a Friday and the Bel Tel jobs section hasn’t been delivered yet, this post reminded me that MI5 have a jobs section and they are recruiting for Belfast MI5. Not many jobs, though for such a big building (it can be seen from space – they say). An English Language Monitor (!) will get around £22,000 on shift https://www.mi5careers.gov.uk/job.aspx?jobid=57 and Admin Assistant 13,000.

    But what did make me smile was the advert for Security Guards in Manchester. Who will guard the Guardians?

  • Shore Road Resident

    I know for a fact that analysts specialising in dirty bomb technology are among the staff brought over from London to Belfast. Either they’re expecting a dirty bomb attack in Belfast, or they’re getting those analysts out of the way of a dirty bomb attack in London.
    GCHQ is MoD intelligence, which might explain MI5’s need for a Belfast bolt-hole. Either way, one thing’s for sure – they didn’t build this thing to spy on the 32CSM.

  • Harry

    Can’t say I’m too convinced by Newton Emersons explanation. Is he taking the piss again? Moving the British government to Ireland as a means to guaranteeing security – and particularly to an Irish city that has been the epicentre of armed insurgency for the last 30 years – strikes me as somewhat naive, to say the least. I don’t know what this MI5 building is for – is it actually MI5, has anyone confirmed that? Is it totally MI5 or partially MI5? Seems to me they moved it here with the biggest fanfare ever to have accompanied a ‘secret’ service, though perhaps they were so bowled over by the example of their new building in London that they just had to keep boasting about their new infrastructure.

    It always struck me that this whole MI5 Holywood thing was a sop to unionists to make them feel safe while some compromise was agreed with the rest of ireland; if it offended nationalists it must be good, so the reasoning would be. Or perhaps this new building will house a joint UK-USA western europe liaison office, just like the old days. Or perhaps it will be a combined UK-USA-EU Atlantic security headqurers, or indeed a joint NATO-WEU headquarters or somesuch.

    Difficult to say what’s going on other than that it’s a very definitie signal that the brits intend to stay.

  • Harry

    According to that advertisement for MI5 jobs in the link given by bebop:

    To be eligible to apply, you must meet our residency criteria. You must be a born or naturalised British Citizen and one of your parents must be a British Citizen or have substantial ties to the UK. Candidates must normally have been resident in the UK for 9 out of the last 10 years. This is particularly important if you were born outside the UK.

    Are they not looking for Polish people to do the job? Why not?

  • Descendancy Again

    Oh give us a break – ‘the Brits intend to stay’ – yeah, yeah Harry, the only ‘Brits’ in Norn Iron are those working for MI5. Sure, sure, sure, sure – whatever gets you to sleep at night.

    As far as MI5 is concerned, friend Ockham & his razor are as useful as ever here. They’ve got a strictly limited budget, they, for various reasons, already had to build this NI site; they’ve got other, non-NI-only needs; so the cheapest infrastructural solution? colocation & dual-use. Simple really.

  • heck

    while we are making up conspiracy theories can I add mine?
    They are moving to belfast to prepare more dodgey dossiers for Honest Tony to launch another illegal war against Iran. After all there is no Andrew Gilligan among belfast reporters to investigate and embarass them.

    Over the last 30 years they have trained journalists to accept what ever crap they spin.

    Just look how MI5 have covered up collusion. If it was’nt for that pesky team from Panorama, who flew in from “the mainland”, SSR could claim it was spides with their keery outs what killed Pat Finucane.

  • Shore Road Resident

    The problem with your argument about giving unionists a £100 million white elephant ‘victory’, Harry, is that the British government has bent over backwards to accommodate republican concerns and no wonder – because this was a very strange thing to do at any time, let alone at such a critical time in time in the peace process. I’m not sure if this is MI5’s plan B either but as I’ve said, it certainly has bugger all to do with monitoring dissident republicans.

  • Descendancy Again

    [Let’s keep to the actual ball! – edited moderator]

  • Descendancy Again

    That really is it. If Slugger’s unsigned moderators really are intent on (to adapt the BBC’s motto) reudcing this site to merely being a way that, ‘Nationalist shall speak unto nationalist’, fine, but count me out. My point about Finucane was every bit as relevant as dragging his name into the thread in the first place was.

  • Seeing as the government still has most of the Corsham facility on warm standby, and there are quite a few other places that would come in handy in this scenario, such as the Permanent Joint HQ/Fleet HQ at Northwood and RAF Strike Command HQ at High Wycombe, and that the “tunnels” referred to were replaced in-role by Corsham in the early 60s…I think this is crap.

  • parcifal

    MI5 will not be involved in civic policing Newt, as you say , their role is in counter-terrorism; more to do with the Jihadis than the Homebase fire-bombers.
    That’s all SF wanted and they got it.
    Your idea is not far-fetched.
    Even in a UI, we’d still employ them and keep the building going to keep an eye on global events; so I don’t see a problem.
    As far as I know Ireland has no MI6 or MI5, and if Ireland ever became a global player we’d need more intelligence than say Gerry Kelly.
    ( pun on one of your old news items )

  • Yokel


    Ireland’s intelligence agencies are Police Branch & Military G2. There is, to the best of my knowledge, no civilian intelligence agency for overseas collection.

    A redundant site concept is perfectly logical but Belfast wouldn’t be alone in providing a network of redundant sites.

    There are another 3 or so people related to Islamic extremism who are apparently being monitored locally. Obviously republicans will be monitored out of Holywood as well.

  • parcifal

    Thanks for that Yokel, I can’t find much on the Net about G2 in Ireland

    there’s more

    Anyways Ireland and England are great friends now, so it makes sense to share some resources.

    Curious fact, you don’t often hear about:

    Since 1945, the Irish Army has been deployed on many peacekeeping missions for the United Nations. A total of 86 Irish soldiers have died in the service of the United Nations since 1960.

  • sms

    I wonder has anyone tried to figure out a correlation between the new mi5 building and the brand new multi million euro building being constructed for the Irish secretariat in Belfast. Is this the beginning of plan B or is it just my conspiracy theories going to my head?

  • Yokel

    They are both made of bricks.

  • George

    if there is a spore-proof tunnel 50 metres below the surface linking the two it could well be the beginning of Plan B.

  • sms

    is the Galway donkey man your uncle!

  • Yokel

    How do you spore proof a tunnel other than create a total vacuum?

    I can see civil servants donning spacesuits to dander over to talk to each other…….nearest either country will get to manned space projects….

  • Yokel

    It was a proper thoroughbred horse I tell ya!

  • lib2016

    With otherwise reasonable people getting a rush to the head once a week or so on this site alone and threatening murder on a grand scale if/when nationalists become a majority here it would seem perfectly natural that the British security services would find a reason for widening their operations in NI during the continuing British withdrawal. The more especially given that unionist intransigence has been the pretext for the British occupation here for the last 80 years.

    Just add in the threats from republican mini-groups and the funding available from the Peace Dividend and it’s no wonder that MI5 is alongside the DUP with their hands out for goodies. Good to see that Sinn Fein got there first all the same…..Belfast is worth a GSTQ or two but we might as well get paid for it.

  • Shore Road Resident

    If there is anything in this theory, it certainly indicates that the Shinners are more inside the loop than any other local party.
    There seems little doubt that the phrase “civic policing” was pre-agreed between the SF leadership and Number 10.

  • Yawn Yawn

    Look MI5 are there to watch any terrorists – and former terrorists.
    If Gerry Adams and Bill Hutchinson’s mates behalf they will be left alone.

    The terrorists are defeatred but it is necessary not to rub salt in their wounds.

  • Cromwell


    ” Obviously republicans will be monitored out of Holywood as well”

    Who do you mean, Mickey Rourke & Martin O’Sheen?
    Is “monitored out” a euphemism for put beyond use as they’ve both been in some pretty crappy films over the years, especially Mickey.

  • The Devil

    Newton Emerson has crafted a piece with more points than a compass and has given us all enough food for thought to feed Africa.
    There will be those who will endeavour to dismiss the boul Newt as at best mischief making and at worst down right scaremongering, but the fact still remains that he has had the courage of his convictions to put in print a very plausible scenario that stands close scrutiny.
    Now I have no idea how Sinn Fein can claim that the British Government kinda slipped this one in under the radar by hiding it in a paper trail, this building is absolutely fucking huge, it couldn’t be slipped on the Greenland ice-sheet let alone under a radar and you can forget a paper trail it would take the Ho-Chi-Minh trail to hide it.

    Now I know for a fact that Sinn Fein never lie because Henry the 94th Chris Donnelly and Pinocchio Gaskin have repeatedly lectured us all on the integrity of Sinn Fein and how they stand for truth and honesty as well as the odd drunken rendition of a Nation Once Again in the Andersonstown social club.
    Therefore it would be safe to assume that those dirty Brit bastards behaved despicably yet again while dealing with the “wee Ulster” question and their politicians actually lied to the wee Sinn Fein team during negotiations.
    Sinn Fein have been telling people for years that this was the most intelligent leadership that the republican movement ever had and that they were shit hot negotiators and they were going to negotiate the Brits into the sea instead of driving them into it, mainly because the salt water would invalidate the DLA Mobility warranty, therefore if the Brits didn’t lie then it would mean that the Sinn Fein leadership were so hungry for power they became compromised and inept to the point of negligence if not ridicule and we all know that just couldn’t be true therefore them Dirty Brit Bastards lied.

    So now any aspiring mujahideen militant in a major rush to screw seventy virgins well sixty nine to be precise because BskyB really screwed the other one will be heading to Holywood in search of paradise, I hope he gets the right directions because if he ends up in the Holyland he’s going to be sorely disappointed.
    Not that I don’t consider students to be legitimate targets because I do and hell knows the gene pool could do with a little filtering but for two reasons, one apart from Mick Jagger I wouldn’t deny any man his rock ‘n’ roll and two because the Holyland is close to the Museum if it was destroyed Republican Sinn Fein, the Women’s Coalition, and the Ulster Unionists Party would have nowhere to go.
    So for purely “selfish and strategic reasons” if I see anyone with a rucksack and white jammy-joes carrying a mega-box of Viagra and sporting an errection bigger than his crazed smile I just want you all to know right now that not only will I willingly point out the general direction of the North Down coast or the “Brass Coast” as it is snootily referred to by the really rich bastards of Donaghadee and Cultra but I will be drawing a detailed map packed with so much information that I may well have to look up The Devil in Italian and get a codename like potato peeler.

    Anyway this scenario may not come to pass because if Bebop is right this gigantic mega structure can be seen from space and not that I’m calling Alex Atwood a space-cadet but if he can find it and signpost it on an S.D.L.P election pamphlet when the same guy couldn’t find a Loyalist in a room full of touts, then I would think it’s a fair assumption that a determined martyr full of the horn is going to find the postal address of Allah lives here.
    So now the good protestant folk of North Down who normally only tolerate the followers of Rome like an Jordanstown I.Q “single digits” will be only too happy to see white communion dresses by the score and Antrim GAA shirted hurlers practicing in the street just so long as they don’t have too deep a tan or smell of kebab meat but more importantly the hurling in the street is not done at 4 O’clock in the morning, running the risk of a suit-cased thermal nuclear device, plutonium poising, nerve agent or anthrax is one thing but having a student bastard beside them and a fenian one at that would be just too much for white folks to bear.
    So if you spy a kebab shop opening in Holywood its time to call the estate agent
    But make sure they aren’t a Shiner because they’ll sell you for a real bad price

  • Shore Road Resident

    I wish I could go drinking on a Friday afternoon.

  • Yokel


    Mickey Rourke..acts the hard lad but apparently is like Mickey Rooney based on his fight career…

    I do believe Rourke’s movies are used as part of interrogation techniqued though….

    Right I’m off out

  • jamestwo

    I cannot believe that this nonsense is getting any attention from regulars to Slugger. How can I put this ? Utter shite. That ought to do it.