Stella Rimington

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Stella Rimington
© Crown Copyright 2007

Stella Rimington was the head of the Security Service MI5 from 1992 to 1996.[1]

Rimington has defended MI5's surveillance of left-wing groups.

Well all I can say is that Communist and Trotskyist organisations, by their philosophy, their published aims, would have fallen within the definition of subversion.[2]


Northern Ireland

According to The Sunday Times, Rimington worked alongside Michael Bettaney running Willie Carlin as an agent in the IRA in 1980.[3]

Rimington was made Assistant Director (head) of a section within F Branch in 1983.[4] This was probably F2.

Rimington worked as acting director of F Branch for a few months in 1985, before being put in charge of recruiting and staff security.[5] The latter role would imply a position in B Branch.

Director K Branch

Rimington became head of the counter-espionage MI5 K Branch in December 1986.[6]

Counter-Terrorism Director

Rimington was head of the counter-terrorist G Branch from 1988 to 1990.[7]

According to Rimington, she was asked by Patrick Walker to take over the post during a CAZAB meeting in Australia which coincided with the Gibraltar shootings, which occurred on the afternoon of 6 March 1988.[8]

Deputy Director General

Rimington succeeded David Ranson as Deputy Director-General for Administration at the end of 1990.[9]

Director General

Northern Ireland

When MI6 officer Michael Oatley re-opened a link to Martin McGuinness in the early 1990s, according to Jonathan Powell:

Stella Rimington, then the Director General of the Security Service (MI5), was vehemently opposed to the idea of the SIS, which was normally confined to operations overseas, treading on their turf in this way, but the Security Service's Director and Co-ordinator of Intelligence in Northern Ireland, who had worked closely with Oatley on Arab terrorism, supported the initiative. Still, MI5 insisted that the operation had to be mounted by one of their staff and found for the role a retired senior SIS officer who had recently been re-employed by the Security Service.[10]

The DCI who had worked with Oatley was probably John Deverell, as reported by Stephen Dorril:

Although when the retiring Oatley passed on the mantle to an MI5 officer, he had the support of the MI5 Co-ordinator of Intelligence in Northern Ireland, John Deverell, the process faced near-collapse following the death of Deverell in a helicopter crash. MI5 Director-General Stella Rimington was a hardliner who briefed Prime Minister John Major that McGuinness and Adams were IRA members and could not be trusted. Privately, senior MI6 officers accused their MI5 counterparts of being 'a bunch of idiots' whose efforts had sabotaged the process.[11]



  1. Former Directors General, MI5, accessed 30 June 2009.
  2. True Spies 1. Subversive My Arse, BBC News, accessed 10 April 2008.
  3. Liam Clarke and Nick Fielding, BETRAYAL: HOW MI5 LOST THATCHER'S MOLE, The Sunday Times, 21 May 2000.
  4. Stella Rimington, Open Secret, Arrow Books, 2002, p.159.
  5. Stella Rimington, Open Secret, Arrow Books, 2002, p.181.
  6. Stella Rimington, Open Secret, Arrow Books, 2002, p.185.
  7. Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.772.
  8. Stella Rimington, Open Secret, Arrow Books, 2002, p.210.
  9. Stella Rimington, Open Secret, Arrow Books, 2002, p.222.
  10. Jonathan Powell, Great Hatred Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, The Bodley Head, 2008, p.71.
  11. Stephen Dorril, MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Fourth Estate Limited, 2000, p.741.