The Government has been urged to set up a public inquiry into the actions of an undercover British detective who operated in Ireland, spending time with people protesting against Shell's construction of a gas pipeline in Mayo.
Belfast legal firm KRW Law has written to the Department of Justice on behalf of its client Sarah Hampton asking it to confirm whether the Garda has ever investigated the actions of the police officer, Mark Kennedy.
Mr Kennedy served with the United Kingdom’s National Public Order Intelligence Unit between 2004 and 2010, and operated undercover inside several environmental groups.
He had a number of relationships with women who were part of these groups, including Ms Hampton, a US citizen, who first met him in Ireland in 2005. He then acted as a tour driver for an environmental group called Trapese. Ms Hampton said she later began an intimate relationship with him, without knowing he was a policeman.
Trapese toured Ireland that year in a bid to raise awareness about environmental challenges in the run-up to the
summit in Gleneagles in
, starting in Dublin before proceeding to Clare and Belfast.
Mr Kennedy is suspected by one-time colleagues of gathering intelligence on green groups and passing it on to his superiors in the UK. He has since admitted to visiting Ireland frequently.
He also had some involvement in the Shell to Sea campaign which opposed the energy company’s Corrib gas pipeline, and he offered advice to those involved on how to organise protests during a workshop in north Mayo in March 2006.
In its letter to the Department of Justice, the Belfast legal firm writes: “There can be no question but that our client has raised allegations of the utmost seriousness.
“It is unclear what statutory powers were used to permit Mr Kennedy to operate in [Ireland], which official granted Mr Kennedy power to operate in the jurisdiction, and on what basis any such power was granted.
“It would be a question of the utmost public concern if an undercover officer were effectively permitted to operate without justification, authorisation or oversight in Ireland,” the legal firm declared. KRW has asked Minister for Justice
to launch a domestic inquiry, and urge British home secretary
to extend the existing Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing to actions in the Republic.
The Department of Justice said: "To the extent that and for so long as the person in question was present in this jurisdiction, he would, naturally have been subject to Irish law. Any person who has any evidence of any criminal activity should make that information available to An Garda Síochána in order that it can be investigated."
Meanwhile, Alliance Party leader David Ford, who stepped down recently as Northern Ireland's minister for justice, has urged Ms May to consider including Northern Ireland in the Pitchford Inquiry.