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More from the state archives December 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

There’s this snippet recounted on the RTÉ website:

Newly-released British documents from 1985 show that some members of the gardaí may have been passing more information to the British authorities than ministers were aware.


He said Britain’s Special Branch and MI5 had “excellent relations” with garda intelligence and security branch, and “benefit from a degree of co-operation and from a flow of intelligence which we believe to be at a greater level than is suspected by at least some Irish ministers.

“A small number of garda officers … are… prepared to be extremely helpful” – and their co-operation made “a major contribution to combating the present terrorist campaign on the mainland”.

Well I never.

Over at the Guardian we discover more on MI5’s ‘spying activities’ in relation to the miner’s strike

The possible public exposure of MI5’s spying activities in the final stages of the miners’ strike set alarm bells ringing at the highest level of government, the Downing Street files show.

The cabinet secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, told Thatcher he was seriously concerned that it would be “difficult to justify the use of information” obtained by MI5 phonetaps to help the legal sequestrators search and seize the miners’ union’s funds.

And there’s an Irish connection too.

The threat of public exposure of MI5’s activities came during a legal attempt to seize the National Union of Mineworkers’ funds, which had been spirited away to the Republic of Ireland. The sequestrator involved a partner in Price Waterhouse called Larkins, who had indiscreetly told the Irish lawyers in the case that the names of the bank accounts to which the NUM funds were being transferred had come from a meeting with the cabinet secretary who had been accompanied by “an unnamed name”.

Just on the matter of police and intelligence intrusion into areas where they take on what can only be described as an actively politically role (or perhaps overtly is a better term) I was surprised recently to read Nick Cohen’s welcome, but somewhat naive thoughts on the topic here in the Observer a few weeks back. He seems unable to quite take on board the idea that in our societies there would – to put it charitably – be an ambivalent aspect to such instruments of the state and issues of democratic oversight and accountability. In a way I can’t help but think he’s caught between his belief that there’s little more that can be done to push things further leftwards, that utterly imperfect as they are this is more or less as good as it gets in terms of socio-political and economic dispensations and simultaneously having to face the realities of the life in bourgeois capitalist states. For example he writes:

But consider what little we are allowed to know about police contempt for fundamental liberties. Kent police – yet – again seized thousands of confidential phone records from the Mail on Sunday without a warrant from a judge, and in defiance of the law’s presumption that journalists’ sources should be protected. Meanwhile, the security establishment has not disowned Lambert. John Grieve, a former head of the Met’s criminal intelligence branch, gave him an academic post at London Metropolitan University where he instructs graduates on how to be police officers, a task for which he is uniquely unqualified.

But what he describes isn’t some sort of unhappy and unfortunate anomaly, as we know this is pretty much business as usual. Indeed he almost comes close to admitting same when he writes:

I am the first to put down people who say democracies are police states as pampered hysterics, so lost in self-important dreams of victimhood they do not understand the sufferings of the subjects of dictatorships. But I and, I hope, anyone else who uses this argument must accept that the reason why we are not a police state is because citizens have fought for centuries to limit police powers. They may have been hysterical on occasion. Their critics may have been able to say that they were fools who did not understand that life here wasn’t so bad when compared to the tsarist empire, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. The fact remains that what freedom we have depends on our willingness to fight for it.

One doesn’t have to say that a democracy is a ‘police state’ to understand that the societal weight afforded to the polling and intelligence arms of the state are disproportionate, and increasingly so. And that it is a constant struggle – as it is in the economic sphere (which of course is another facet of the same problem) – to push back against those forces gaining even greater influence.

Meanwhile the files. Not exactly cheering to see how easily the British Home Office simply did not believe the threat of ‘nuclear winter’ in the event of a nuclear exchange.

A confidential file on “Nuclear winter – global atmospheric consequences of nuclear war” shows that civil servants in the department’s emergency planning section, F6, decided they did not need to research the disputed phenomenon.

An internal memo in December 1984 records: “It was agreed with F6 that no assessment of the [nuclear winter] theory would be carried out by the branch and as such our interest is limited to general reading which could not be regarded as following the subject in any depth.”

Though this is revealing:

“The government believes that the outbreak of war is extremely unlikely and our policy of deterrence is aimed at keeping it that way.”

Good to know, though somewhat at odds with the rhetoric of the times – no?

And what of this? First up they couldn’t afford the facilities for the World Service to continue in the event of a war, and then there’s this about aspects of civil population measures in the vent of said war:

A separate memorandum was headed: “Spontaneous evacuation of civil population in a future war.” A weary civil servant observed: “Another hare, the breakdown of public morale in a war emergency and consequent flight from the capital, was let loose.

“This is a hoary subject in the civil defence planning world (as opposed to the real world) on a footing with others such as ‘will staff turn up for duty on the day?’

“No one doubts the need to maintain a war effort … If the public is not with the war effort then the war would be loseable without a single nuclear weapon being exploded on England’s green and pleasant land.

“The guts of the matter is that in a war emergency a task of the police would be to ensure that, as it does in peacetime (eg peak holiday weekends), that the country does not come to a grinding halt through traffic congestion howsoever caused.”

That’s it? Hard to credit that there would be much traffic, let alone police, infrastructure left in the wake of the detonation of nuclear weapons – and all this in the context of absurdly short ‘warnings’ in advance of a nuclear strike? It’s amazing, isn’t it, how the reality of nuclear war is shied away from in these documents, in terms of its actual impacts. Does that indicate yet more cynicism when set against the prevailing rhetoric?

Returning to Ireland again, or rather this state, how’s this for championing the rights of all the people of this island?

Garret FitzGerald, the Irish taoiseach, or prime minister, knew he had an uphill task in persuading Thatcher of the need for an agreement. Charles Powell, Thatcher’s chief adviser on foreign affairs, left a detailed note of a meeting they had on the fringes of an EU gathering in Milan.


“Speaking with considerable emotion,” Powell recalled, “the taoiseach said that he wanted the prime minister to understand that the Irish government and people did not want a role in Northern Ireland. He was the only person willing to take risks and force the Irish people to face up to the need for an agreement. He did so because he believed that otherwise Sinn Féin would gain the upper hand amongst the minority in the north and provoke a civil war which would drag the Republic down as well.

Perhaps it was the logic of the situation which led to the first genuine ‘role of the ‘Irish government’ in Northern Ireland’, or perhaps he was simply attempting to sugar the pill (Thatcher herself saw tactical positioning in all this), but with an approach like that one has to wonder how the AIA ever saw the light of day. Certainly Thatcher herself seems to have been deeply sceptical about the whole process.


1. CL - December 30, 2014

“These so-called vulture funds, which now control vast swathes of the capital’s private residential rental market, have sought rent increases of more than 20 per cent from residential tenants in recent weeks, as they seek to turn hefty profits from their assets.” SBP.
This too is driving homelessness. (Incidentally in NYC, de Blasio has appointed a Goldman Sachs executive to run his housing programme)
All this is an inevitable corollary of an economic policy whose main thrust is placating the bond markets and MNCs.


CL - December 30, 2014

Oops! wrong thread.


2. shea - December 30, 2014

that file on helpful gardai came from the british end. Wonder if this side put pen to paper. paranoid lot, may have declined to. not unreasonable i suppose, their security force was more than helpful with their opposite number in britain, giving more than they where delegated to give 10 years after dublin monaghan. State has a odd relationship with the gaurds, they have to be pushed to question them on penalty points wonder what it would take them to bring up treason.


3. EWI - December 31, 2014

There was an incident, during the Eighties, which brought this to light and if I remember correctly involved army intelligence, G2 (or whatever their designation is these days). But yes, many Guards were certainly turned.


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