11 February 2006

'Concern' over MI5 policing plan

BBC

Government plans to give MI5 a bigger say over police intelligence in Northern Ireland are cause for concern, SDLP leader Mark Durkan has said.

Mr Durkan said he was worried this would lead to a lack of scrutiny.

He said if this happened police intelligence would be unaccountable to the Policing Board or any future devolved administration.

The government is to publish a bill dealing with the proposed devolution of policing and justice powers next week.

"We worked a long time to ensure we ended the force within a force, which was the old special branch, and get intelligence policing on a completely new basis," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics show.

"That would be bypassed and undermined if we had an ulterior intelligence policing operation continuing in a completely unaccountable way."

The Northern Ireland Bill, due to be published on 16 February, is understood to cover policing and some other matters, such as electricity deregulation.

The bill could also be amended in April to make other rule changes.

These changes concern voting procedures at Stormont and the accountability of ministers.

Devolved government at Stormont was suspended in 2003 following allegations of a republican spy ring at the Northern Ireland Office.

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