MI5 blind to Loyalists like Stone - Attwood

29 November 2006

Michael Stone was a threat to national security - but MI5 doesn't watch loyalists do, SDLP Policing Spokesman Alex Attwood has stated.

Mr Attwood said:

"MI5 don't bother with loyalists. They don't think they pose a threat to national security.

"Yet who was it who tried to walk into Stormont with pipe bombs last week but loyalist Michael Stone? Who threatened the democratically elected Assembly of the people of the North but a loyalist?

 

"And who was it who shot over 110 times at the police last year but loyalists at Whiterock? And which organisation was responsible for more murders than any other in the last IMC report? The UVF.

"Yet it has been officially confirmed that MI5 will not be taking on loyalists. And when you look at the MI5 website, you see what really counts when it comes to national security. It's clear that a threat to national security means a threat to Britain. What happens in the North doesn't really count.

"Indeed, it is hard to find much mention of the loyalist threat on the MI5 website. And when you eventually find it, you find this:

"Loyalist vigilante groups were originally formed in the 1960s and 1970s to defend their neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland against republican violence, but swiftly developed into terrorist organisations."

"Clearly, MI5 has bought into a one sided version of history that is totally wrong. It's a version of history where the Malvern Street killings never happened, where the burning of Bombay Street never happened and where whatever loyalism did was just "reactive".

"Of course, the SDLP does not want MI5 to handle loyalists. We believe that it should be left to the PSNI. So too should countering the threat from republican paramilitaries. We don't see any case for MI5 having primacy in the North for any group.

"But if they do take on a role, their attitude to loyalism shows why they need to be watched like hawks. That's why the SDLP is insisting that the Police Ombudsman get the power to investigate any MI5 officers in the North. The Ombudsman is vital so that light can be shone into the dark places where MI5 operates."

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. On 15 February 2006 Hugh Orde was reported in the Irish Times to have confirmed that MI5 will not be taking on loyalists:

"PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde said yesterday that his primary function would be combating crime and that therefore his officers would handle republican and loyalist agents who could provide intelligence in this area. But in an interview with the BBC yesterday he confirmed that MI5 would have the lead role in relation to national security.
"He would have sole responsibility for loyalist agents as they were solely involved in crime. But he added that in relation to republican agents there would be a division of responsibilities, with MI5 responsible for national security issues and the PSNI dealing with republican criminality."

2. On the threats facing national security about Northern Ireland the MI5 website states:

"Northern Ireland-related terrorism continues to pose a threat. Dissident republican terrorist groups, who have rejected the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998, still aspire to mount attacks in Great Britain."

When you hit on the link for Northern Ireland terrorism the main text does not mention loyalists:

"NORTHERN IRELAND-RELATED & DOMESTIC TERRORISM
Dissident Irish republican terrorist groups present a serious threat to British interests.

These groups reject the Belfast Agreement (the "Good Friday" Agreement), continue to engage in acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland, and aspire to attack targets in Great Britain.
The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) has not mounted a terrorist campaign since 1997. Its associated political party, Sinn Fein, is engaged in the Northern Ireland political process.
Paramilitary and criminal activity by all paramilitary organisations continues in Northern Ireland.
Other extremist groups, unrelated to the Northern Ireland situation, may aspire to campaigns of violence but lack developed terrorist capability.