MI5 says 80% of terror plots foiled: Director-General gives Dimbleby lecture

THE SECURITY services foil 80 per cent of terrorist attacks attempted in Northern Ireland, Stella Rimington, the Director-General of MI5, said in a BBC television lecture last night. She disclosed that MI5 dedicates nearly half its resources to tackling Irish terrorism.

The public has never been afforded such a detailed account of MI5, the national security agency, as it was by Mrs Rimington in the 1994 Richard Dimbleby lecture.

Mrs Rimington, appointed head of the Security Service in 1991 - the first woman and the first to be publicly identified - denied any incompatibility between the work of MI5 and the defence of parliamentary democracy. 'It is the right of the individual to participate freely and safely in our democracy that we are here to protect,' she said.

There have been allegations that MI5 has been politically partisan, that it has targeted trade unions and left- wing activists, and that some officers conspired to subvert Harold Wilson's government in the 1960s. Mrs Rimington said: 'It is difficult for an organisation which must work in secret to talk about what it does and to satisfy its critics. One result is the tendency for completely untrue 'conspiracy theories' to emerge . . . One of the most persistent (was) that MI5 plotted to undermine the then prime minister, Harold Wilson. No such plot existed.'

She dismissed suggestions that the service targeted high- profile people - possibly a reference to allegations that MI5 recorded telephone conversations between the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker- Bowles. 'I and my staff believe deeply that the very serious step of intruding into people's private lives must be strictly limited to what is unavoidable in the interests of national security.'

The focus of MI5 had changed since its foundation in 1909. Its main work was no longer to catch foreign spies, and there had been a decline in the amount of work connected with 'subversion' at home.

'Since the collapse of Soviet communism, the threats to national security have changed greatly. Countering espionage now takes up less than a quarter of our resources; half what it was three years ago, and a far cry from the position at the height of the Cold War,' she said.

Leading article, page 13

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Service and Installation Engineer

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Negotiator - OTE £24,000

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic individual is r...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?