Letters to the Editor: ‘PSNI confirm the reality of political policing’
Last Friday (May 18th), a widely circulated PSNI press release was issued to the media hours before a number of republicans appeared at specially-convened courts the following day. The press release blew a hole in the myth perpetuated by constitutional nationalist parties in Stormont regarding their much vaunted claims of having secured what they have continuously described as “a new era of civic policing” in the Six Counties.
The PSNI press release confirmed the clear organisational overlaps, interconnection and collaboration between that force and MI5, and vindicated what éirígí and others have been saying for quite some time – that the primary purpose of the PSNI remains that of a fully armed pro-British militia which exists to support, maintain and enforce British rule in the Six Counties.
For several years, constitutional nationalist parties in the Six Counties have peddled the lie that they achieved the following:
- No role for MI5 in ‘civic policing’
- No PSNI personnel under MI5 control
- No secondment of PSNI personnel to MI5
- Annual oversight and reporting mechanisms on MI5’s role
- A clear firewall established between the PSNI and MI5
So let’s examine the reality.
No role for MI5 in ‘civic policing’? MI5 does not have powers of arrest; does not have powers to question people; does not have powers to search or seize property. MI5 is fully dependent upon the PSNI to do all this for them. MI5 has overall primacy for Britain’s “national security” interests. As such, every British police force, whether in London, Birmingham or the Six Counties is subservient to MI5 and are obliged to carry out those operations, arrests, searches and interrogations dictated at the behest of MI5.
No PSNI personnel under MI5 control? No secondment of PSNI personnel to MI5? In January 2007, constitutional nationalists put great emphasis on a public statement made by the then British prime minister, Tony Blair. Blair stated that PSNI personnel attached to PSNI Headquarters Staff would act in a “in a liaison capacity” with MI5. His statement was conveniently seized upon by constitutional nationalists to camouflage the reality that there are, in fact, many sections of the PSNI which fall under that overarching and all-encompassing description of “Headquarters Staff”.
In a Freedom of Information request published in 2009, the PSNI admitted that that the physical location of PSNI Headquarters comprised not merely the Knock Road HQ in Belfast but it included multiple locations across the Six Counties and also, significantly, included the following departments:
- Crime Operations (including the PSNI intelligence unit C3)
- Finance and Support
- Human Resources
- Operations Support, including the Tactical Support Groups (TSGs)
The Crime Operations Department (and its specialist sections) was formed when Special Branch and the Criminal Investigation Department were amalgamated under a unified command within the PSNI. It is unclear how many former Special Branch officers are located throughout the various specialist branches of Crime Operations or what percentage of total personnel they constitute. Given that former RUC Special Branch officers would have substantial years of service and intelligence experience, it is likely these continue to occupy pivotal positions.
The Tactical Support Groups within the PSNI Operations Support department were, in 2010, comprised of almost 500 personnel. The PSNI’s overall manpower currently stands at around 7,600 full- and part-time personnel. At any one time, at least 1,200 of those personnel are attached to PSNI Headquarters staff and, as such, all are highly likely to be acting in a ‘liaison capacity’ directly with MI5. Annual oversight and reporting mechanisms on MI5’s role? Here again, oversight and reporting mechanisms concerning MI5 have been shown to be completely meaningless and worthless.
The appointment of a British peer, Lord Carlile, a fervent supporter both of non-jury Diplock courts and the prolonged detention without trial of suspects, to a role in annually reviewing MI5 in the North, was bizarrely hailed as “progress” by constitutional nationalists at Stormont.
This was probably due to the fact, based on Tony Blair’s statement of 10th January 2007, that Carlile’s annual review of MI5 in the Six Counties is supposed to take place in consultation with the First and deputy First Ministers at Stormont – thereby directly implicating the north’s largest constitutional nationalist party into providing a fig-leaf for MI5’s surreptitious activities in the Six Counties.
Announcing that he had received Carlile’s third and most recent annual report, Britain’s colonial overlord in the Six Counties, Owen Paterson, stated on Monday 19th December 2011 that “there are no difficulties of any significance in the inter-operability between the PSNI and the Security Service and identifies this is a sound working partnership and one that is to be commended”.
“Given its sensitive nature,” Paterson refused to make the report public. He also reinforced the sensitive, secretive and potentially controversial nature of its contents by declining to place a copy in the Library within the Westminster Parliament, thereby preventing his fellow British MPs from examining or questioning its contents.
A clear firewall established between the PSNI and MI5? It is obvious from all of the foregoing that no “clear firewall” was ever established between these two forces. Instead, constitutional nationalist parties created a smokescreen of lies and misinformation to mislead their own party members and supporters into believing that they had achieved progress and ended an era of political policing which has existed for as long as the Six County state itself.
That a permanent and malign MI5 presence exists in the North is undeniable. The multi-million pound base that MI5 has built at Palace Barracks serves as an inescapable physical testament to that fact.
Many individuals and solicitors can also attest to MI5’s permanent presence within the PSNI’s main interrogation centre in Antrim. On a regular basis, and in the presence of their legal representatives, persons held in Antrim are repeatedly asked if they wish to avail of the opportunity to have “an intelligence interview” – a euphemism used by PSNI interrogators to describe questioning by MI5 and/or recruitment of the individual by MI5.
There are many within the political establishments in both jurisdictions on this island who have invested much time, energy and propaganda in creating the myth of a new, reformed Six Counties.
They have thrown their full support behind the PSNI, while turning a blind eye to that force’s continuing and increased collusion with MI5 and covert British military units such as the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR). The two main constitutional nationalist parties in the Six Counties, in particular, heralded the so-called devolution of policing and justice powers to the Stormont administration as the dawn of a new era.
It’s time they admitted the failure of that project. Political policing remains just as much a reality today in the Six Counties as it was ten, twenty, thirty and forty years ago. No amount of Stormont spin can change that.
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