The row over the return of members of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, in specialist support roles, in Northern Ireland rumbles on [Has the Prime Minister returned Martin’s phone-call yet? – Ed]. Meanwhile.. at the Guardian’s Politics Blog, Henry McDonald asks why the apparent surprise?
The most surprising aspect of this current spat between Sinn Féin and Orde is that no one seems to have seen it coming. It was surely inevitable that a police service reduced in size and shorn of anti-terrorism experts (most of whom have retired to play golf on the Spanish Costas, with their post-Patten redundancy money) would at some stage have to call on the resources of other branches of the security forces, MI5 and the British army, to aid their anti-terrorist operations.
Moreover, if all of those currently complaining about this deployment of undercover soldiers had read the St Andrews agreement, it was crystal clear that one of the outcomes of those negotiations was that terrorism and national security would remain, in the main, in the hands of those unaccountable to any Policing Board, power-sharing executive or assembly. Yet all the parties currently sharing power at Stormont signed up to this arrangement, which led to, among other things, the construction of the largest MI5 centre outside its London HQ.