Chance missed to wipe out IRA

MI5 revelations: Ex-agent says red tape stymied anti-terror move

The IRA could have been wiped out in mainland Britain in 1993 if MI5, the security service, had been efficient, according to David Shayler, a former officer.

In his first major television interview since the first revelations from Mr Shayler appeared in the Mail on Sunday, he told last night's BBC Newsnight programme that MI5 was far too bureaucratic to be able to deal properly with the IRA threat.

He said that, for example, if a warrant were needed, it would have to go through six or seven service bureaucrats before being signed by the Home Secretary. Far too much time was spent writing drafts preventing officers from actively fighting the terrorist threat.

He said: "There was a real chance in 1993 when MI5 took over primacy for fighting terrorism on the mainland that they could have really finished off [the IRA] campaign. The IRA were on the ropes and if [MI5] had been clued up, they could have finished them off."

Mr Shayler also said that all politicians were "assessed" before the 1992 election to see whether they posed a threat to the British state "if they were introduced into a government".

Personal files were opened on people such as Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, and Peter Mandelson but also on others such as Tam Dalyell, the backbench MP because of his belief that the Libyans did not carry out the Lockerbie bombing. Ted Heath, the former Tory prime minister also had a file because of his support for "rapprochement" with the Communist Eastern bloc.

Although Mr Mandelson, now Minister Without Portfolio, has denied joining the Communist Party - dismissing the suggestion that MI5 took an interest in him for that reason as "a pure smear" - Mr Shayler insisted that there was a copy of his membership card in his file "which was fairly conclusive proof that he was a member".

Files were divided into a bureaucratic system of green, amber and red. Red files were essentially dormant, but Mr Mandelson had remained amber until just before the 1992 election. IRA members' files would remain green until they died, Mr Shayler said. The filing system is in abeyance because the counter- subversion section was closed last year, but the files have not been destroyed.

Mr Straw has demanded an urgent report from MI5. The Home Secretary is to meet the director of the security service, Stephen Lander "soon", in the light of Mr Shayler's claims. Mr Shayler also said that Mr Straw himself had been regarded as a "Communist sympathiser" purely because he was president of the National Union of Students.

Last night, a Home Office spokeswoman said: "The Home Secretary will be receiving a report from the director-general, Stephen Lander, over the issues raised at the weekend as soon as possible. Consideration is being given to what if any action should be taken."

The Home Office declined to go into details about the issues which would be covered in Mr Lander's report, or spell out what action it might be considering. It is likely, however, that MI5 will at least be considering whether to ask the police to investigate whether Mr Shayler, 31, has committed an offence under the Official Secrets Act. Ultimately, it would be for the Attorney General, John Morris,to sanction any prosecution, should one be deemed appropriate.

Mr Straw is also likely to want to hear the security service's justification for carrying out surveillance on the targets identified by Mr Shayler, who also said MI5 kept files on John Lennon and "subversive" bands like the Sex Pistols and UB40.

The former officer has spoken to The Independent from an undisclosed location in Europe, and has said that he plans to stay on the run.

He said he believed he could not be extradited, but added: "I have to accept that I would be a fugitive. But no other country has a law like the Official Secrets Act so I don't think any court would allow me to be sent back to Britain."

Suggested Topics
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor