On its web site, MI5 (the Security Service) claims to have had fewer than fifty operatives working out of Stormont Castle during the “Troubles.” As republicans can testify, they faced a plethora of state agents and state intelligence agencies during their “war of liberation,” including the police Special Branch, the Military Reaction Force, Force Research Unit, SAS, and who knows what other shadowy agencies that played a part in the dark and dangerous world of spies and informers.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland, and before that the Royal Ulster Constabulary, led the state’s fight against the Irish Republican Army and the Irish National Liberation Army. It ran agents and informers who gathered information on both loyalist and republican proscribed organisations, including the Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Volunteer Force, and Red Hand Commando.
Together with accusations of the “shoot to kill” policy against republicans by Margaret Thatcher, coupled with persistent and proven cases of state collusion with loyalist murder gangs, the role of the state security apparatus was, first and foremost, the battle to marginalise and eradicate the threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom posed by militant republicans, battling to end Britain’s colonial occupation of the north-east of Ireland.
This is borne out by the leading role MI5 plays in securing the state of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. MI5 has sole responsibility for operational jurisdiction here against “dissident republicans,” while the PSNI retains primacy over loyalist paramilitary activities as well as ordinary crime.
Republicans are viewed as a threat to the state, but apparently loyalists are not; in fact they may be deemed at times an asset to the state—a local militia?
The whole thrust of British state intelligence work, with a budget of possibly billions, is directed solely against republicans, north and south of the border that partitioned Ireland on behalf of British interests in 1922.
Republicans and nationalists have always claimed that the security services and security forces operated here with impunity, using torture, false imprisonment and shoot-to-kill operations alongside extrajudicial murders and covert state executions.
Now many people in both Ireland and the United Kingdom see the new Security Bill brought before Parliament as the next phase of Britain’s dubious and at times discredited security operation in Ireland. This act of Parliament may well be a “get out of jail” card for MI5 operatives and others who flout the law, break the law, and commit such crimes as recruitment to proscribed organisations, procurement of arms and ammunition, entrapment, incitement to maim and murder, directing terrorism, and prosecuting a war against the state in order to protect the state.
It is my opinion that this new legislation will allow MI5 to operate even more aggressively, immorally and illegally against republicans by becoming not only judge, jury and executioner but also the recruiter, organiser and promoter of dissident republican activity, by using its embedded assets, both inserted and recruited as agents provocateurs within these organisations.
The rationale is not to defeat its enemies but to create an endless conveyor belt of young and old republicans being sent to Maghaberry Jail and Hyde Bank prison while securing massive funds for its operation, in effect creating a perfect storm of intercepted missions and compromised leaders and a perceived continued threat to the peace talks and the Belfast Agreement, the bogey man and woman of Irish republicanism.
When is the state protecting itself, and by extension its citizens, from a militarised threat and when is it promoting, using and funding that threat?
There are numerous examples of assets within organisations, legal and illegal, being used to promote illegal activity. These cases have been well documented by the CND movement, socialist organisations, and civil society groups, involving deep-cover agents—some of whom had physical relationships with those they were spying on, in order to cement their place in the group—and incited violence in order to brand them as criminal and militant in the eyes of the public.
Undercover informants working for the police and MI5 are going to be explicitly permitted for the first time under British law to commit crimes. This will legalise what many believe has already happened in Britain’s dirty war against Irish republicans.
Always remember, the crimes the British establishment commit on the Irish people will eventually be used against its own citizenry.
Thankfully, elements within the British political class are standing against this new legalised criminality; but their voices are few.
Will the trial involving Dennis McFadden, MI5’s star witness against the alleged leadership of the New IRA, and the Palestinian Dr Issam Hijawwi Basalat be the first showcase trial where an undercover operative admits being involved in illegal activity, previously held to be criminal but now to be accepted as the hard face of Britain’s fight against international terrorism?
Why has this legislation been brought forward at this time?
Will it be used in the trial of Teresa May’s would-be assassin, entrapped and possibly set up by the state?
Is it to help keep Dennis McFadden and others out of jail?
The “Covert Human Resources Bill” must be opposed by all those who defend democracy. Entrapment by the state will become a tool for criminalising individuals, groups and communities opposed to the state and for creating false-flag attacks on society, to manipulate public opinion in favour of the state narrative.
⏩Fra Hughes blogs @ The North Belfast Journal: A View From Napoleon's Nose.