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Top secret: Some 1,500 would-be spies apply to join cloak-and-dagger world of MI5

By Cate McCurry

Published 31/10/2015

More than 1,500 people from Northern Ireland have filled in applications for the positions of business support officers at an MI5 department
More than 1,500 people from Northern Ireland have filled in applications for the positions of business support officers at an MI5 department

Could you cut it working with the spooks?

Thousands of people clearly think they can after a job advert for MI5 that appeared in this newspaper attracted huge interest.

More than 1,500 people from Northern Ireland have filled in applications for the positions of business support officers at an MI5 department.

It is believed this is the first time the security agency has advertised in this way for roles in Northern Ireland. The advert had a starting salary of £22,543 rising after one year to £25,587 for the full-time permanent job that's in the greater Belfast area.

The notice says that this is a rare opportunity to join them and provide "vital administrative support" across their business which protects the UK against threats to national security, including terrorism and espionage.

Applicants could work in a range of departments, including finance, HR or the legal team.

"Wherever you work, however, you'll make an important contribution to the smooth running of MI5," it states.

"We'll look to you to fulfil a range of important tasks, including collating information, managing databases, research, transcribing recordings and producing reports."

Interested applicants need to have excellent administration, organisation and time-management skills and strong oral and written communication skills. They also need to be proactive, flexible and highly self-motivated and if so, they will work well as part of a team.

To work for the MI5 you need five GCSEs at grades A*-C, including maths and English, basic IT skills, including the ability to use email, the internet, MS Word and Excel, and a full UK driving licence.

"You should be comfortable making basic assessments from a range of data sources including text, numbers and imagery in both electronic and hard copy format," it adds.

Candidates must be born or naturalised British citizens, over 18 years old and normally have lived in the UK for nine of the last 10 years.

The ad highlights the importance of discretion in MI5.

It said aspiring support officers should not discuss their application with anyone other than their partner or a close family member but under one condition - the other person must be British. And they too should also be made aware of the importance of discretion.

The role of MI5, as defined in the Security Service Act 1989, is "the protection of national security and in particular its protection against threats such as terrorism, espionage and sabotage, the activities of agents of foreign powers, and from actions intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means".

The main threats to national security MI5 counters also include cyber threats and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

MI5's principal activity is the fight against terrorism, which includes both international and Northern Ireland-related terrorism, and the provision of protective security advice in support of that task.

Resources dedicated to this area of work have grown in the last few years, owing to the increased threat from international terrorism.

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