A new MI5 intelligence-gathering base in Belfast destroys the new beginning envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement, writes Fr Joe McVeigh
AS I write MI5 is building a huge superbase in Holywood near Palace Barracks in east Belfast. At a cost of around £100 million, boasting a 10,000 sq feet facility with a deep subterranean level, the base's construction is literally entrenching the intelligence agency's position in Ireland.
It is said this base is needed to monitor citizens in England, Scotland and Wales as well as Ireland. That information, according to reports, will be stored at Holywood in case the main HQ in London is attacked.
It amazes me that the Dublin government has so far shown little or no concern about this sinister development on Irish soil. But then why should anything that the Dublin government does or does not do amaze us? A government that provides special stop-over facilities for US soldiers on their way to and from Iraq; a government that supports the Shell Oil company which threatens the lives of people in Mayo.
Still, the MI5 development raises serious questions for the 26 county government, as well as for all of those concerned about moving the peace process forward. Could it be possible that Bertie Ahern and the FF/PD Coalition have already given Blair and his MI5 friends the green light to go ahead with their building project in Belfast?
MI5 has shown nothing but contempt for democracy and for the Irish people throughout its history. During 40 years in Ireland its real purpose has been to identify, target and kill anyone they considered a threat to the state's security.
What does this move says about the British government's commitment to peace in Ireland or the Dublin's concern for national sovereignty and independence? By giving MI5 primacy in intelligence-gathering next year, the British are ensuring that those making the crucial security decisions in the north escape the transparency and equality requirements which apply to the PSNI.
The practice of 50-50 Catholic-Protestant recruitment has increased Catholic representation in the PSNI to over 20 per cent; it will be over 30 by 2010. Not only has MI5 no 50:50 recruitment policy, it refuses to reveal the religious break-down of its workforce.
The Good Friday agreement promised new beginning to policing. The Patten commission recommended how that might come about. Many of us made it our business to ensure that Patten would make serious and radical proposals about policing. After all, the people who suffered at the hands of the RUC and MI5 were and are experts on policing.
The old RUC became the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and so far it is under the direct control of the British government at Westminster.
The involvement of MI5 in murder and mayhem in the six counties is well documented. It contributed more than anything to the escalation of the violence in Ireland in the early 1970s. After the UVF bombings in 1968, several UVF men were arrested and put in prison. Only one of them, Samuel Stevenson, was found guilty. The others, despite Stevenson's testimony against them, were found not guilty. Stevenson was sent to an open prison in England and within a matter of weeks was given a golden handshake and a one-way ticket to Australia.
This loyalist bombing campaign was designed to promote anti-IRA hysteria as part of an anti -O'Neill campaign and was one of the factors leading to the resignation of the then prime minister, Terence O'Neill in 1969.
Another trial giving us an indication of who was pulling the strings was that of Charles Harding-Smith and five other UDA members in 1972. They were charged in London with dealing in £350,000 worth of arms. They were acquitted. A letter from the assistant Chief Constable of the RUC was read in court, stating that on many occasions Smith had been a pacifier between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast. Smith was, in fact, as noted by Dillon and Lehane in Political Murder in Northern Ireland, opposed to those in the UDA who wanted to reach an accommodation with the Catholic working class.
It was UVF unionists who carried out the bomb attack on McGurk's bar in December 1971, which killed fifteen people. Despite the evidence of a witness and a letter from empire loyalists claiming responsibility, the British authorities at the time tried to portray it as an IRA own goal.
A British agent provocateur in the UDA, Albert Walker Baker, besides giving details of RUC/UDA collusion, has admitted driving the car containing a bomb part of the way to Dublin in 1972. The Yorkshire Television production The Hidden Hand -The Forgotten Massacre, showed British intelligence links to the unionists responsible for the 1974 Dublin/Monaghan atrocities.
These are a few early examples of the collusion between British intelligence (MI5/MI6) and unionist murder gangs. The revelations in the Stevens Report about the murder of Belfast solicitor, Pat Finucane, shows to what extent the British government/MI5 was prepared to use unionist/loyalist killers in their war against the IRA/Republican community in the six counties.
We know also that the British also had agents working within the IRA. Peter Keely, or 'Kevin Fulton' as he is known, has also written about his activities as a British agent in the IRA. Many lives of UDR and RUC personnel were sacrificed to protect these British agents.
This is further evidence of the British government's immoral position on policing. Conflict resolution is an ongoing and difficult process. It will require imagination and creativity. However, the decision by the British government to build an MI5 base in Belfast does not augur well for the future or for peace.
A recent report refers to 77 killings carried out by the RUC and the British army in the six counties in the early 1970s. These revelations are enough justification for MI5/MI6 never to be involved in any way in Irish affairs.
The fact that they are building the MI5 Holywood superbase to support the one in London without a word of protest from Dublin should alarm all the citizens of Ireland who care about the future of democracy on this island. Their involvement raises serious political and moral issues about citizenship and democracy -not just for the people in the six counties - but also for the citizens of the whole island of Ireland and indeed the citizens of England, Scotland and Wales.
Surely there is a need for a concerted effort to stop this sinister plot to undermine the democratic process in Ireland at this delicate time in the peace process.
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2007 Fr Joe McVeigh