Belfast Telegraph

MI5 not up to dealing with terrorists, claims SDLP

By Deborah McAleese

Serious doubts have been raised about the intelligence-gathering capabilities of M15 as dissident violence continues to escalate.

SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie said it is “very clear that MI5 is not up to the task of leading intelligence-gathering in the north”.

Ms Ritchie has called for an urgent meeting with Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Secretary of State Owen Paterson to discuss new approaches for dealing with the terrorist threat.

“There is no evidence that MI5 puts a high priority on the dissident threat beyond providing some signals and background intelligence, which may amount to nothing more than listening to gossip and monitoring a few dodgy websites,” Ms Ritchie said.

Her party colleague Dolores Kelly also questioned M15’s capabilities in Northern Ireland saying that “a handful of dissidents are running rings around M15”.

Police Federation chairman Terry Spence said, however, that as far as he is concerned there is no evidence to suggest the PSNI is not in receipt of all information.

“As far as I am concerned we are getting all the information. If it turns out to be the case that we are not, then that will be a very worrying situation and we will relook at it. But currently we have no evidence to say the PSNI is being deprived of information,” he said.

Following a week of increased terrorist violence Mr Spence said he was extremely concerned and that if the police force continues to downsize “we will be in huge trouble this time next year”.

“People have to understand that if they think this is just a passing phase of a campaign, it is not. “This is a sustained terrorist campaign which will be here for some time to come,” Mr Spence said.

“We need additional resources. It is not going to go away. There are politicians and others who are pretending everything in the garden is rosy — but it is not.

“There have been 49 bomb incidents and 32 shooting incidents attributable to dissident republicans since the beginning of the year. That is very worrying.”

DUP Policing Board member Jimmy Spratt also said that following a briefing with the Chief Constable he is satisfied with the level of intelligence that is being passed from M15 to the PSNI.

“So far this year around 40 people have been charged with terrorist offences and within days of the bomb in Londonderry police made arrests, so there must be a degree of reasonable intelligence there,” he said.

First Minister Peter Robinson said Saturday's no-warning bomb attack in Lurgan was “designed to maim, injure and kill whoever happened to be close by, including children”.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness added: “There is no justification whatsoever for the attack. No cause or belief will be served by attacks on our children. These attacks must stop and stop now. This is not the way forward for any section of our society.”

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