British Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged today that the MI5 spy agency will have no role in ordinary policing matters in the North.
The promise is aimed at assuaging widespread concerns among nationalists about plans to give the spy agency responsibility for intelligence-gathering in the North.
In a parliamentary statement today, Mr Blair said the PSNI would be completely separated from the undercover security agency and no police officers would be seconded to or under the control of MI5.
He also said arrangements would be made to ensure the Police Ombudsman had access to any MI5 intelligence information it needs and reviews of the agency’s work would be carried out every year.
The measures are understood to have been agreed during negotiations over the Christmas period between Mr Blair and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.
They are apparently designed to prompt Sinn Fein to press ahead with its planned ard fheis to endorse the PSNI.
However, it is unclear if the development will be enough to secure this historic vote as Sinn Féin insisted yesterday that it would not hold any ard fheis until the DUP makes a clear commitment to share power after Assembly elections planned for March.