MI5 to take over NI anti-terrorist work

 

MI5 is to take over responsibility for British national security intelligence work in Northern Ireland from the PSNI in two years' time, the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, has announced.

The restructuring will give MI5 the lead strategic intelligence role in dealing with national security matters, including those that are targeted at organisations such as the IRA, UDA and UVF. The PSNI will still have chief responsibility for handling intelligence aimed at tackling organised crime.

The former RUC Special Branch, now subsumed into the C3 section of PSNI's crime operations, came in for fierce criticism during the Troubles, with several allegations of collusion with loyalist paramilitaries and failure to pass on crucial information to other police sections.

MI5 and the PSNI will liaise with each other in the two-year lead-in to this reform, which is in accordance with the Patten proposals, to devise a workable structure, Mr Murphy and the police made clear last night. "The decision brings Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK," said a PSNI spokesman.

The changes will be discussed by the Policing Board next week.