By playing politics, local parties show they are not ready to deal with serious security threats

 Is SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie right?

“There is no evidence that MI5 puts a high priority on the dissident threat beyond providing some signals and background intelligence, which may amount to nothing more than listening to gossip and monitoring a few dodgy websites,”

Yet this case is  one of several  that show MI5 have a reach that the PSNI by itself can hardly match. And arrests after the Strand Road bomb while not of course conclusive, have been  pretty prompt. Pre-empting the dissidents is  of course  better than arrests and that requires two things:  community cooperation and serious intelligence work. Ms Ritchie may be reflecting a view that the latter is prejudicing the former. What’s the evidence?  If true, she should  spell it out.  Otherwise we can assume there will always be protests when the heat is on. Politicians who campaigned for law and order responsibility will have to face up to that.          

The SDLP have never been happy with MI5’s lack of local accountability. References to the trauma of Omagh revive memories of the unresolved controversy over different priorities of the intelligence services and the police.

However the nationalist parties supported the downgrading of Special Branch when the PSNI replaced the RUC. Omagh was the grimmest possible reminder that an intelligence operation was still needed to fill the gap.

Does the SDLP really regret that? Or perhaps they’re just trying to score over the Sinn Fein who still formally stigmatise MI5 as “securocrats ” and who are walking on eggs when it comes to dealing with the dissidents?

I have always assumed that one of the reasons for giving MI5 a substantial semi-public role was to take some of the heat off the new police force and make them more acceptable to nationalist people and politicians. The politicians might complain from time to time but basically the delicate concordat held.

Is it now in serious question under pressure from a rising dissident threat? One can only devoutly hope not.

Perish the thought that political parties should play politics with security at a sensitive time.  But it is very interesting to say the least, that despite the devolution of policing and justice powers, the two sovereign governments are taking it upon themselves to maintain back channels to the dissidents. They may believe that local politicians are still not ready to take full responsibility for the sharper edges of law and order.  

Who’s to say they’re wrong?




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  • madraj55

    Brian Walker. Nobody can say their wrong because the Politicians could take powers over social security but don’t because they are scared it would make them unpopular, [as if]. the set up in Stormont is just a toy government. no adult supervision going on.

  • “Is SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie right?”


  • Greenflag

    ‘Who’s to say they’re wrong?’

    I would’nt . To be fair to the Assembly parties they are still in the early days of this ‘experiment’ . Progress comes dripping slow in NI. Given it’s political history can it be other ?
    Frustrating for some of course . Patience.

  • Cynic

    How would Margaret know?

    I think this is called ‘bigging oneself up’. Perhaps the start of the SDLP campaign for Justice after the next election …and what fun that would be. I am not sure if I would rather see Jimmy Spratt or Alex Attwood in the role.

  • Alias

    The trite term “playing politics” is often used to mean that some matters should be beyond democratic oversight and public scrutiny. The public must simply comply with the dictates of the state without question, believing that totalitarianism has its proper time and place – and such a time and place is whenever British national security is at stake.

    The Shinners backtracked on the Patten report and gave those whose role is to promote and protect British national security and economic interests a role in the police force that was not subject to public scrutiny via the Ombudsman. Obviously, the Shinners don’t believe in “playing politics” when it comes to defending the realm.

  • Brian, here’s Margaret Ritchie’s statement.

    Unfortunately, Margaret is playing the Strand 2 green card:

    “The SDLP believes we need an aggressive, high-profile, all-Ireland intelligence-gathering operation based on the bond of trust which has grown between police and public.”

  • Cynic

    Oh God…the same old SDLP drum with a hole in it. We invented the Anglo Irish Agreement so it must be made to work and we will try to secretly use it to merge bits of PSNI and AGS. Of course the Unionists will never notice.

  • “the unresolved controversy over different priorities of the intelligence services and the police”

    in the UK and Ireland. London and Dublin have both put their metropolitan interests above the protection of people and property in Northern Ireland.

    Intelligence gathering requires the use of informers who must be protected to be of any value to the information gathering process. Sometimes this will mean paramilitary acts being permitted to proceed even when people are at risk of death or serious injury. The less the reliance on paid informers the better but this means that members of the public will have to take their chances with the paramilitaries if they decide to assist the state justice systems.

  • joeCanuck

    Exactly; how would she know? MI5 are hardly going to advertise their activities.
    Just looking for attention, methinks.

  • joeCanuck

    Ritchie wants the PSNI to usurp the role of MI5 in intelligence gathering. Wonder what we should call whatever PSNI Section would be set up to do that – Special Branch perhaps?

  • I believe the Dublin government knows as much about the intelligence gathering in the north as the London government. How long is going to take people to realise that the two governments are hand in glove on the north?

    If Ms Ritchie does not know that she needs to learn fast. In fact I wonder if her comment is related to MMcGs recent comment. Could it be that Stormont is letting both governments know they will not be left out of the loop?

  • Greenflag

    Nevin ,

    ‘In the UK and Ireland. London and Dublin have both put their metropolitan interests above the protection of people and property in Northern Ireland.’

    Too harsh Nevin although I can see where you are coming from etc . Both have probably done the best they could given the limitations, the history and the fact that NI is a place apart in these islands in terms of it’s local politics and cultural divisions both real and mythic . As good as it gets I’d say for now . No boat rocking just paddle along there on the fringe of the real world and lets not be hearing too much from either side if you please about sums it up 😉

    Not surprising when one considers the history of the past 40 years and the state’s foundation which brings back the old canard suitably adapted from another former one party state .

    Question :

    ‘Are there any historical precedents for Northern Ireland as a state iand more importantly it’s present system of government in 2010’?

    Answer :

    ‘Yes, in the story of the Creation , God made Eve , put her in the Garden of Eden , and said to Adam : ‘Now choose a woman ‘

    Hobson ‘s choice 🙁

  • vanhelsing

    Back in the day MI5 had the Commies and the Ra’ to keep them busy. Now there are no Commies, no Ra’ and instead the budget is driven towards countering islamic terrorism – I heard percentages this year but can’t remember them…

    I would imagine that MI5 is interested in dissident activities and is ‘doing what they do’ and clearly there is a need.

    MR probably isn’t far off the mark when she notes ‘it’s not a high priority’ but that is of course understandable.

    As far as “an aggressive, high-profile, all-Ireland intelligence-gathering operation based on the bond of trust which has grown between police and public.” Come on Marge!!

    I’m not being funny but does the Republic have a ‘Security Service’ and what’s it called? Cheers VH

  • vanhelsing

    🙂 Brilliant Joe

  • Munsterview

    Anyone that thinks that MI5 or whatever acronym is appropriate do not know everything about most armed groups down to the material composition of what they daily pull the chain on is not living in the real world.

    The real question what the hell are they doing with the intel information that they have and why, given their resources, are they allowing the armed response to continue at the scale that it is.

    I am not for a moment suggesting that all in republican armed resistance groups are compromised, what I am maintaining is that Brit intel services could mount such an overt operation that it would make it almost impossible for an active service unit to operate.

    The fact that they have not done so points to the fact that these intel forces want some degree of armed capacity in the republican community. I do not question the motives of the majority involved in the republican side, but I do question the motives of these on the Brit. Intel side who are allowing the campaign to continue at its present scale.

    Whatever the reasons of the Brits, one thing for sure, they are not in Irelands interest !

  • Alias

    Special Branch was renamed, not disbanded. It still deals with sectarian murder gangs from the loyalist side. As loyalist sectarian murder gangs only kill catholics and are not, being pro-state, a threat to the national security of the British state, MI5 does not monitor them.

  • Munsterview

    First class quality Bull S***……..Intel… the bastards were the loyalist gangs !

    The gangs, were their creation for low intensity warfare purposes, they used them as a killing machine as long as they suited their purpose and when it no longer did, turned off the tap!

    Lets not try to re-write history here !

  • joeCanuck

    Do you have any other conspiracy fantasies which you want to share with us? (Don’t bother asking; obviously I am blind in one eye and can’t see with the other!)

  • What’s too harsh? Dublin acted to topple the socialist leadership of the IRA as the hoped for revolution was intended to sweep away the conservative establishments in both Belfast and Dublin back in the 60s. It unashamedly left decent folks here to the tender mercies of the extremists in order to protect its own institutions. Have you forgotten Mo Mowlam’s coinage – ‘internal housekeeping’?

  • Munsterview


    At the start of the current campaign, Brit Intel had the special branch man responsible for collating intel from all Southern agencies for Jack Lynch’s Cabinet in their pay, the cop concerned was arrested, charged, convicted and jailed before he was given over to the Brits.

    Fact not fantasy !

    At the end of the campaign it transpired that they had successfully infiltrated the IRA own internal security Northern Command and were de facto in control of it. For how long or how many operations were compromised God only knows, these days it is just another of the many elephants in the herd.

    Fact not fantasy !

    During the campaign Brit intel succeeded in placing Sean O’Callahan in Southern IRA Command and ran him there for some time. Take it from me despite attempts to play down the role Sean did more than run out for the occasional pint of milk or do a bit of driving when needed.

    Fact not fantasy !

    Plenty more incidents in between and if my own file was anything to go on these people had a widespread operation tapped into every single facet of Irish life. The Irish Defense forces maintain an Intel network of ex members in civilian society. Because of the way that it is structured it was very easy indeed for any of these people to have two paymasters…..and I actually knew a few that had.

    Never the less, feel free to continue to make disparaging remarks from a few thousand miles away. However more of us that made a deliberate decision to ‘stay home and fight’ may have different experiences to draw on from another lived reality.

    Look up Old Magil issues and there you will find an extensive article of how Irish Intel Forces could have prevented the execution of a low level informant and did not to preserve Callaghans cover but Vincent Browne was fantasizing too, right ?.

    Past bedtime and well past the time that it should be necessary to argue these things that are a matter of record. A smart ass by-line is just that…….. hard fact is another matter and when well documented fact is deliberately ignored, it obviously begs the question….. just what is the agenda here ?

  • joeCanuck

    us that made a deliberate decision to ‘stay home and fight’ may have different experiences to draw on from another lived reality

    How brave you are, unlike spineless cowards like myself who, after enduring 12 years of indiscriminate sectarian and non-sectarian murder, could stand it no longer and ran away to give my children a future life free of hatred.
    I can smell the roses; I don’t have to tilt at windmills.

  • Alias

    “…the bastards were the loyalist gangs !”

    So who were the ‘republican’ gangs? It seems the two British agents who ran PIRA’s internal security unit and had access to details of all operations and personal with a remit that could only be countermanded by a member of the ‘Army Council’ could have amassed enough evidence and have enough credibility with a court to put all of the top PIRA folks in prison for a very long time, and thereby close down that particular sectarian murder gang. Why didn’t the state close down a gang that it was actually in control of? Probably because it would be putting most of its own touts in jail and closing down PIRA would have defeated the purpose of controlling it, i.e. to use it to claim ownership of ‘republicanism’ and then use it to redefine it so that it incorporates British sovereignty rather than repudiates it. As is often said, you can kill the man but not the idea. Therefore, you need to change your tactics and kill the idea. Historic compromise, and all that…

  • Alias

    “Therefore, you need to change your tactics and kill [the former meaning of] the idea.”

  • MV

    For years (decades) the Brits said G Adams Snr was a bully and a thug and they said PIRA was a criminal organisation. Now GA snr is accused of incest and some PIRA members are accused of rape, further incest and child abuse. It also looks as though the Brits took every advantage of these little foibles.

    In almost every comment you make your hatred for the British is so blatant it destroys the thrust of your argument in that it is a complete failure to recognise there could possibly be another side to the argument.

    Can you not see it is this blind hero worship that gave certain republicans so much power and through them gave the Brits the tools they needed? The Brits did not care about the people in republican communities but republicans should have. Kangaroo courts and the like were ideal for the Brits giving them even more information and ammunition, they were less than useless to genuine republicans as no real investigation was either possible or carried out, they were a fig leaf for brutality and worse.

    To be effective support has to be critical examining each step with minute care. A bomb going off is not a victory, it is just a mess. If it wounds or kills Irish people it is a criminal mess. Years of experience should have taught us all this but you go back hundreds of years when you should be concentrating on the past twenty.

  • MV

    Sorry for twenty of course I meant forty!

  • Greenflag

    What ‘idea’ . Ideas if they are any good will always survive and eventually will arise again . Truth will out and history will move along as it always does. Your assessment of the GFA seems more than a little paranoid . Whats wrong with historic compromise anyway ? A UI is not inevitable and may even be undesirable ? An Australian Republic may be desirable but not inevitable .

    The ‘Nation State’ has had it’s traditional sovereignty undermined by global corporations and international banking and financial services .

    Even little Estonia has figured that one out as it joins the Euro Zone on January 1 – 2011


  • Greenflag

    With respect Nevin there’s probably more chance of a ‘socialist revolution ‘ here today than there would have been in the mid 1960’s and even then it would be ‘socialism ‘ of the Irish Labour Party variety rather than that of SF .

    ‘Have you forgotten ‘

    Lots and I’m trying to forget more 😉

  • Munsterview


    At this moment I have more membership cards in my wallet for British based societies than Irish, three to one in fact. Because of specialized fields of study on more than one occasion, I have been the only Irish member at English conferences or in Continental touring parties. Far from politics being taboo, these people know of my background and the ‘Irish situation’ is always discussed.

    However if you are happier to pigeon hole me into a category fine, I cannot change your bias nor am I particularly concerned to try. Never the less to let your comments go without opposition is to give grist to the mill of some posters who would like to do likewise!

    England gave a home to two of my aunts and I have numerous cousins there completed integrated into English society and values. This process had in fact been going on for over two centuries.

    Most of my extended family in Ireland opposed English activity in here since the mid-1500’s. I choose to take a certain course of action, no one forced me into it. I at least had a choice unlike another distant cousin who found himself ‘offside’ after WW1. As a serving officer he made a career in the British Army.
    When I was on the Ard Comhairle of Sinn Fein, this man a retired general, OBE, CBE was still alive.

    There is a big difference between opposing British activities in Ireland…….. most of the English people I know do that also, and extending that opposition to all things ‘British”……. which is a mixture of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, and Manx as well as English contributions anyway !

    That I do not do, but far be it from me to take you outside your comfort zone and cause you to reflect!

  • Munsterview

    Having experienced conditions in the North first hand over the years, I do not blame anyone for ‘getting out’ and staying out, especially to make a better lives for their families.

    What I do have have a problem with is somebody like you then sitting in judgement on those that were involved and what is more disputing facts regarding conditions and experiences that you did not have direct experience of.

    Time and again I have questioned on things like The Fenian Invasion of Canada or the English Enslavement of the Irish for sale in the ‘New World’ However when I do supply information on these matters……… a deafening silence !

    This would indicate to me that some posters are more interested in argument and needling than any genuine intent to explore concealed history. Others however are and even a few makes the exercise worthwhile whatever of the goaders!

  • joeCanuck

    ..a deafening silence..

    MV, my apologies if you think I have ignored the info you so kindly gave me. I have followed up though I have not (yet) bought any books – fixed income and I must ration myself.

  • MV

    The British wont care what you think of them, many of them will agree with your aims, as I do! My concern is that in your haste to blame the British for everything you overlook or find excuses for the crimes of some republicans.

    I may be wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time! but it’s the impression I get, sometimes it is neither possible or sensible to over look the crime for the greater good.

  • Munsterview

    I do not just ‘blame the British for everything’ !

    What I do as a historian is place Irish events inside the matrix of the start, soaring height and decline of the British Empire. In doing so I apply the same methodology to the Low Intensity Warfare as practiced in Ireland as I do to the African / British conflict where such practices were first advocated. It is also easier to see the wood from the trees a continent away.

    I have said before that I think your heart is in the right place !

    I do not wish to patronize but there is a big difference between cause and effect, the first is primary….. dissect and acknowledge that and there may be some understanding of the second.
    Without it there is just opinion and confused reasoning !

    If the effects are taken in isolation, things like the Shankill Butchers, IRA Armagh Killings of UDR etc, then very little can be justified. Put it in the context of the ‘Big Picture’ however and another perspective emerges………. A Brit gamelan and the actions taken to implement it that are still ongoing……… and resistance to that plan.

    The Brits ( and by this I mean the British establishment and those who serve it) deny there is a ‘Game Plan’……. the official line ( or lie ) to the world is ‘ the bloody Irish’ were at each others throats and they were the impartial peacemakers trapped in the middle just keeping order.

    Our own Southern sorry lot bought into that scenario to keep Ireland safe for Brown envelopes and and continue their own miserable grip in power and helped prolong the conflict until the republican rise to political power made a general containment and neutralization policy unsustainable.

    Fore those involved there is no middle ground, not can there be! It is either resistance to that British Game Plan or acquiescing to it !

  • joeCanuck

    I can’t accept the theory that the Brits continue to want to keep Ireland or part of Ireland in thrall. That was the case but no more. I think they would love to be shot of us. That definitely would be the wish of the general population; they are sick to death of us.

  • MV

    For those involved there is no middle ground, not can there be! It is either resistance to that British Game Plan or acquiescing to it !

    As you might guess I disagree with that statement! I think we have to persuade rather than attack. The truth is attack has never worked. Persuasion has got us further in the last twelve years or so than anything that went before.

  • Munsterview

    The latter Focus can relate to, quite a few things missing from my shelves I would like to have there.

    The whole IRB / foundation / invasion is fascinating as there is a Masonic interface that still touches a nerve……… some of the sarcastic ( and attempted distracting ) reactions to this historical information are interesting and for those used to jousting in this black and white arena, very predictable.

    It is a story of gross Wasp double dealing and betrayal of the very people that made a difference in the Civil War and saved the American Republic for them. It is only when it is put in the context of other New World Order activities that things come into focus and a clear picture emerges.

    All IRB activities up to and including the clinical execution of IRB Head Centre, Mick Collins at the mouth of gorge was in fact a game of cat and mouse between these forces and Fenian goals…….as it still is!

  • Alias

    “What ‘idea’ .”

    The idea that nations have the right to self-determination as set out in the first article of the Irish constitution and the first article of the UN’s ICCPR.

    “Ideas if they are any good will always survive and eventually will arise again .”

    On the contrary, freedoms must always be actively defended or lost through neglect. It isn’t possible to defend something when you are ignorant of what it is, and that is why you and your fellow Irish citizens are kept in ignorance of it.

    “Your assessment of the GFA seems more than a little paranoid .”

    Suggesting that statecraft is a little bit covert might seem a little bit paranoid if you’re a little bit innocent…

    “Whats wrong with historic compromise anyway ?”

    It depends on what right you are compromising. Compromising the right to life would also be a historic compromise, so what would be wrong with that?

    “The ‘Nation State’ has had it’s traditional sovereignty undermined by global corporations and international banking and financial services .”

    Not at all. Bar a few exceptions, all of the world’s 193 states are nation-states. It’s true that some states have signed up to various treaties on finance but all of them retain the sovereignty to exit those treaties if they no longer deem it to be in their respective national interest.

    “Even little Estonia has figured that one out as it joins the Euro Zone on January 1 – 2011”

    It’s it amazing what the lure of free money will do? Shame that it is the more prosperous (and all EU states are now debt-ridden economic bakwaters) will be the ones coughing up the free cash in transfer of wealth that lures these parasitic Eastern European states into the EU.

  • Munsterview

    Quite a few of us that devoted our lives to republican politics are still waiting for answers from ‘Leadership’ on that one……and waiting we will be!

    I had been trying for years to locate an early graphic of a distant Fenian cousin……… a researcher following up another matter found a file recently deliberately concealed in other unrelated papers but there for those with an sufficient insight to follow a certain trails and who knew what they were looking for.

    Who knows, in another one hundred and thirty years someone may get the answers to this too. Meanwhile on a beach in Italy, soaking up the sunshine and contemplating a generous pension…………etc.

  • Munsterview

    Resistance is resistance per se !

    What form that resistance takes is for the individuals concerned, some are content to fight from their armchairs via their keyboards, some by active involvement in political organizations and still others by armed resistance.

    However of the content of the postings distill to this, those who believe that there is a Big Game scenario and attempt to expose it, those who know and try to cover it up and distract from it…….. and the rest.

    As our yankee cousins would put it ‘that’s the way the cookie crumbles” !

  • Munsterview

    Precise dates they gave up and their reasons for doing it please.

    And that large new building for MI5 and the spooks……. presumably really meant for an Art Gallery when the Paddies have advanced sufficently to be involved in such things?

  • MV

    In your sarky list you left out one group:

    Those who knew republican communities were being abused by republicans and did nothing – for the good of the cause.

    One question: If the people are not the reason for the struggle, what is.

  • Munsterview

    Yet another set of shifting goalposts to chase all over the field………. thanks !

    In the light of what I have previously posted on this subject on other threads, I will give my weary feet ( and mind ) a break on this one !

  • MV

    Night, night, dont be too disheartened when democracy does what force could never do…

  • joeCanuck

    You know I cannot give a precise date, MV; but it has been thus probably since the bombings started on the bigger island. Likely some time prior to Peter Brookes 1989(?) statement about ‘the UK government having no selfish, strategic or economic interests in Northern Ireland’.
    Reason? – money; it costs them a lot to support N.I. which has a large deficit of private enterprise.
    As to the MI5 building, my brother who has built many such buildings tells me that they are designed to last 30 years before major refurbishment will be needed. I thing the UK Government reckons that N.I. will continue as is for that period at least and wanted a back-up building close to facilities and as far away as possible from Islamic terrorists and where any such folk would stand out.
    Anyway, according to Margaret Ritchie this week they ain’t doing much locally.

  • Munsterview

    “……. Likely some time prior to Peter Brookes 1989(?) statement about ‘the UK government having no selfish, strategic or economic interests in Northern Ireland’…….”

    If this was truly factual then there were two possible scenarios that would have given immediate effect to this and removed all justification for armed resistance against the Northern State.

    1) Joint sovereignty with agreed Irish and British institutions side by side including a police service with Garda that could go into the West Belfast etc. Likewise with a Justice system and other institutional systems.

    2) If the Unionists could not wear this then the UN could have suppressed and taken control of an interim administration in place with a reasonable time frame to allow National integration.

    Neither were done, given the long history of previous British duplicity on this Island, Republicans have every reason to be suspicious and I can well understand the motivation of those who will not compromise on the armed force issue.

    Incidently can any poster point to a clear and unambiguous statement by a senior British Government Minister that they intended to totally withdraw from Ireland by 2016….. 18…. 20…… 30 or whatever.

    Is there even a statement by such a figure that they expected to be out of Ireland in ten years, twenty, thirty or whatever.

    I personally am not one bit surprised that all but the hard core of Provisional Sinn Fein are having second, third etc thoughts……. there is an ever widening gulf about the peace process the Leadership sold to the mass of the republican movement………. and the goods delivered.

    We are long past the stage where things done for optics can cover that widening breech, more and more the claims of those opposed to the ‘peace process are gaining credibility principally because the process per se is leaching credibility by the day.

    Only events can change this for Nationalists……. this will not happen in the immediate or intermediate future and by the time the needed events happen for the nationalist community it will be once again……. too little…..too late !

  • joeCanuck

    1) Joint sovereignty with agreed Irish and British institutions side by side including a police service with Garda that could go into the West Belfast etc. Likewise with a Justice system and other institutional systems.

    I can foresee that in the medium term; I see it necessary in investigations like that of the young lad Quinn in S.Armagh almost 2 years ago now with no charges laid. Hot pursuit should also be allowed right now in my opinion.