MI5 in Northern Ireland

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MI5 acquired the lead intelligence role in Northern Ireland in 2007. During the Troubles, according to the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, "Primacy lay with the RUC and, in particular, with SB. The Security Service, nonetheless, maintained a highly significant presence in Northern Ireland".[1]

History

Border Campaign

According to official historian Christopher Andrew, MI5 sent a liaison officer to Belfast during the IRA border campaign of 1958-1962.[2]

The 1960s

On 17 March 1966, Air Marshal Harold Maguire, deputy chief of the Defence Staff (Intelligence) raised the need for 'up to date information on the IRA threat' at a meeting of the Joint Intelligence Committee. However, the director-general of MI5 Martin Furnival Jones argued that the IRA represented a 'law and order' problem rather than a security one, and intelligence assistance should go through Special Branch. The Defence Operations Centre was suggested as a possible vehicle for this.[3]

On 6 November 1968, the Home Secretary James Callaghan asked MI5 for an up-to-date appreciation of the prospect of violence in Northern Ireland from the IRA. Deputy Director-General Anthony Simkins told the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Home Office, Sir Philip Allen that this placed MI5 "in a rather Gilbertian situation as we derived our information from the [RUC] and had no independent coverage." An MI5 paper entitled "The Threat of Violence in Northern Ireland" was completed in December 1968.[4]

Outbreak of the Troubles

In the spring of 1969, an internal MI5 newsletter stated: "The total effort deployed by F. Branch in matters Irish was until recently confined to one part-time desk officer in F.1.C.[5]

On 25 April 1969, Simkins told the Official Committee on Northern Ireland that the RUC Inspector General had asked that MI5 send a liaison officer once again:

If we took up this suggestion we should probably get a very good idea of the reliability of the RUC's intelligence about the IRA. Allen said the Home Secretary approved of our doing so, and the meeting warmly endorsed the idea.[6]

An MI5 Security Liaison Officer (SLO) was accordingly posted to RUC headquarters at Knock near Belfast four days later. A full-time Irish desk was established in F1B at around the same time.[7]

Stella Rimington, then a junior assistant officer, wrote of this desk:

In fact at the Leconfield House end, it consisted of one experienced lady assistant officer and myself. We were supporting a small group who had gone to Northern Ireland to work with the RUC and to assess what MI5 should do."[8]

A new Security Liason Officer was appointed in July 1970.[9]

Direct Rule

Following the advent of direct rule in 1972, an Irish Joint Section was established in London and Belfast, manned by both MI5 and MI6 officers.[10]

Structure and Personnel

Director and Co-ordinator of Intelligence (Northern Ireland) (DCI)

Assistant DCI

According to the Pat Finucane Review by Sir Desmond de Silva QC there was an Assistant DCI, who chaired the Targeting Policy Committee.[15]

DCI Rep (Knock)

DCI Rep (HQNI)

Assessments Group (AsGp)

Head of Assessments Group (HAG)[16]

T8 Irish Counter Terrorism Agent Handling Section

Prior to April 1984, agent-handling was the responsibility of the Irish Joint Section. The Security Service became solely responsible for its Belfast station and created a new section, F8, in London which assumed management responsibility. The F8 Section was a part of the FX Branch of the Service in London, which became responsible for dealing with counter-terrorism. In 1988, FX Branch became G Branch and F8 was renamed as G8. In 1990, Irish counter-terrorism was transferred to a new T Branch.[15]

  • G/02 (De Silva report cipher) - Head of the agent-running section, probably F8, February 1987.[21]
  • S224 - Assistant Director.[22]
  • S966 - agent handler 1996-1999.[23]
  • S255 - agent handler 1996-2000.[24]

Positions not known

External Resources

  • MI5, Pat Finucane Centre

Notes

  1. The Rosemary Nelson Inquiry Report (PDF), Crown Copyright, 23 May 2001, p.161.
  2. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.602.
  3. Mark Hollingsworth and Nick Fielding, Defending the Realm: Inside MI5 and the War on Terrorism, Andre Deutsch, 2003, p.136.
  4. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.602.
  5. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.602.
  6. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.604.
  7. Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.604.
  8. Stella Rimington, Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5, 2002, p.105.
  9. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.618.
  10. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.621.
  11. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.18.
  12. Paul Lashmar and James Oliver, Britain's Secret Propaganda War 1948-1977, Sutton Publishing, 1998, p.157.
  13. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.484.
  14. Transcript Day 71, Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, 5 November 2008.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 3: Intelligence structures, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  16. The Rosemary Nelson Inquiry Report (PDF), Crown Copyright, 23 May 2001, p.163.
  17. Transcript Day 69, Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, 3 November 2008.
  18. Transcript Day 71, Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, 5 November 2008.
  19. Transcript Day 70, Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, 4 November 2008.
  20. Transcript Day 103, Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, 9 February 2009.
  21. Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 6: The recruitment of Brian Nelson, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  22. Transcript Day 104, Rosemary Nelson Inquiry], 10 February 2009.
  23. Transcript day 72, Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, 6 November 2008.
  24. Transcript Day 72, Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, 6 November 2008.
  25. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.55.
  26. Stephen Dorril, The Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, Mandarin, 1994, p.55.