Spy agency advertises for first time in Northern Ireland…

IT’S a far cry from those enigmatic job ‘ads’ in the Sunday Times classifieds of old, as MI5 advertise in the three Northern Irish regional newspapers today for IT professionals and foreign language transcribers – though I can’t imagine there being too many local Arabic speakers end up in Palace Barracks (pictured). Nor – despite continuing controversy over the security service’s history and role here – are they seeking Irish or Ulster-Scot speakers(!) The News Letter reports that a senior Whitehall source said the translators in the Belfast HQ “will listen live to intercepted telephone calls from anywhere in the UK”. He added: ‘They will be transcribing the conversations of international terrorist targets and sending the transcripts back to intelligence analysts in Thames House (London MI5)’ – handy, as this is also the NIO’s London base. But don’t bother applying if you’re an Irish passport holder, it’s Brits only. One out-of-work Brit who probably won’t be applying, but who has more experience of both spooks and the Sunday Times than most, is the newspaper’s former NI editor, Liam Clarke. Today, he recounts some of his run-ins with spies, terrorists, politicians and the police as he looks back at two decades of reporting the Troubles from the front line.

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Nosey parkers and ear-wiggers sign up!

  • willowfield

    But don’t bother applying if you’re an Irish passport holder, it’s Brits only.

    It’s possible to be a “Brit” and also be an “Irish” passport-holder. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of UK citizens in NI hold Southern-Irish passports.

  • Dessertspoon

    I don’t get all the fuss they had a number of ads for staff this time last year too!! Did everyone just miss these?

  • RG Cuan

    Agree with Willowfirls about the passport issue.

    If someone from NI has an Irish Pas i don’t think it actually means they are not British citizens.

    Not for the first time, the News Letter is wrong.

  • barneyben


    Wrong…nobody has a Southern-Irish passport.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    OK, you can’t just be an Irish passport holder – you need to have British citizenship.

    MI5 were looking for an English language monitor here last November, but I don’t think it was advertised openly in the local press. It did appear on the MI5 website though, as Mick blogged it.

  • DK

    IT and language experts – looks like the Belfast HQ will be a big call centre.

  • me

    So whose applying? Gonzo? Mick? Or better still an under cover agent called rusty nail..!)

  • Confused

    What is a “southern Irish passport” when it’s at home?

  • “What is a “southern Irish passport” when it’s at home?”

    A passport issued form the part of Ireland that is not “here”.

    Mods – please give some consideration to handing out yellow cards for pedantry like this. If we bog every thread down in technicalities over names there will be no useful discussion at all.

    FWIW The roles for the IT staff they’re looking for suggest that they’re seeking to employ IT support staff (sys admins etc) rather than developers/researchers etc. In other words it’s probably going to be the lower end of the pay scale (although it doesn’t look too bad) and I’d suspect there will be limited numbers.

  • barneyben

    “Only British citizens – or those who hold dual British-Irish citizenship – can enter the application process for work with the security service.”
    The News Letter makes it clear that Irish-Passport holders may apply, they can hardly be blamed for that particular spin on the story.

    As for pedantry, it is not unreasonable to expect commentators to at least know where Ireland is. There is no such country as “Southern Ireland”. Relations with Cork have no sunk quite low enough yet for a such a Statelet to be necessitated, although it may be wise to keep the option open.

  • FRU


    No citizen can be employed by any British security agency unless and untill the NV/PV and dependant upon the level of access enhanced PV status has been achieved and that normally involves 2 generations of birth right as a basic requirement and six months of vetting.

    AND then you have internal safety protocals. This involves caveats like UKEYES A……. That means only British citizens have access ie NO AMERICANS NO AUSTRALIAN NO NEW ZEALANDER etc etc especialy important in the echelon collection zone.The chances of an Irish National being employed in a sensitive post are about the same as Gerry Adams achieving a United Ireland before 2016 or Martin Ingram being invited back to an Int Corps Sgts mess piss up.


  • The Muller

    What, Brits only? Haven’t they heard of / ain’t they subject to EU rules on free movement of labour?

  • presto

    Muller, you’ll probably find that security agencies are exempt 🙂

  • FRU

    [the ball? – edited moderator]

  • kidso

    Saw the Flight of the Earls on BBC2. listening to Coldpalys Spies. Spies and informers have been rife in Ireland throughout the centuries. Yet most empires crash through infighting and subterfuge, The ordinary folk live on and on and on. I wonder would we be a gaelic monarchy if the Wind That shakes the Barley hadnt saken the Spanish boats too much in the 1600’s. Just a thought.