MI5 chief: Secret Service stays as long as terror remains

The Security Service will only remain in the North as long as the threat from terror groups exists, Matt Baggott has insisted.

The Security Service will only remain in the North as long as the threat from terror groups exists, Matt Baggott has insisted.

The chief constable acknowledged that some nationalists still view MI5’s presence with suspicion but he claimed it was only in the region to keep people safe.

He made clear that he remained in operational control of security operations in the region.

“In terms of national security there is a Security Service still here but, you know something, all I’ve seen from them is a desire to keep people safe,” he said.

“And if this problem wasn’t here they wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t want them here.”

He added: “We (the PSNI) have operational control and they (the Security Service) are required to show us the information and intelligence and I have seen no signs that that is being broken.

“So the Service has expertise and it has a role here under part of the devolution of policing and justice, and that’s accepted by everybody.

“They are here simply to keep people alive but I am in control operationally and no one dictates to me what I do.”

Mr Baggott said the Service was playing an important role in the fight against dissidents.

“In terms of the way intelligence is being managed, the way it’s being turned into operational intervention and bringing people to courts, all that is subject to due process,” he added.

“In the longer term, if we didn’t have a terrorist problem we wouldn’t have the Security Service here and I think you have to put the onus for that back onto the public and back onto people here to continue to fight, to persuade and remove these people (dissidents) from the equation. Then we could spend the money on hospitals.”

He said he was aware that MI5 was still viewed with mistrust by some people in the region.

“I do see that but I have to live with the facts: everything I’ve seen has been just simply about keeping people safe,” he said.

“I respect people’s views on what it should look like, but we wouldn’t be having this success (in operations against dissidents) if we weren’t working closely with our friends in the south (Garda) who also work alongside the Service. There is a role (for the Security Services) here and I am accountable for what I do operationally.”

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