Campaigns // Imperialists out of Ireland!!

British Forces in Ireland

The British occupation of Ireland is underpinned by a trinity of armed agencies.  These forces represent the ‘stick’ in the British ‘carrot and stick’ counter-insurgency strategy in Ireland.

The largest British force currently in Ireland is the locally recruited paramilitary police force known the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).  The PSNI is largely made up of former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and has the same core function as its predecessor; that is, to protect the British state, and British interests, in Ireland.  It is for this reason that the PSNI is commonly known as the RUC/PSNI.

With a standing strength of 9,000 the RUC/PSNI is an unusually large police force given the population and ‘ordinary’ crime levels in the six counties.  For comparison in the twenty-six counties, which has comparable levels of ‘ordinary’ crime, the ‘Garda Siochana’ has less then 14,000 members.  This is for a population roughly twice the size of that of the six-counties spread across an area five times larger then that covered by the RUC/PSNI.

The RUC/PSNI is also unusual in that all of its members are routinely armed with weapons ranging from the ‘less lethal’ plastic bullets and CS gas through to highly-lethal sub-machine guns and assault rifles.  Members of the RUC/PSNI also routinely wear body armour and travel in armoured jeeps.

Both the large size and heavily armed nature of the RUC/PSNI are clear indicators, if ones are needed, of the true role of this modern day colonial police force.

Since the foundation of the northern state in 1921 the police have been the first line of defence for the British occupation.  The RUC/PSNI, like all police forces, acts as the ‘eyes and ears’ of their government – in this case the British government.  The gathering of intelligence from within the nationalist and republican communities has always been an essential part of Britain’s attempts to neutralise any threat to its rule in Ireland.

This is the context within which recent RUC/PSNI recruitment drives must be seen.  What better sources of intelligence could there be than thousands of well-paid agents living in the heart of those communities most likely to oppose the British occupation?

The RUC/PSNI is an inherently political force, unworthy of the support of the people of Ireland.

British Army:
As part of the British Army’s programme of ‘normalisation’ troop levels in occupied Ireland now stand at roughly 5,000.  This ‘permanent garrison’ is primarily tasked with maintaining ‘internal security’ in the so-called ‘United Kingdom’ and operates under the latest British military campaign in Ireland codenamed ‘Operation Helvetic’.

Recent legislation (The Justice and Security Act 2007) gives the occupation army permanent widespread powers to stop, search, arrest and seize. Such powers had previously only been available under 'emergency' legislation

With this legislation and the launching of ‘Operation Helvetic’ the British government have in place both the legislative framework and the physical capacity to rapidly move their troops back into routine use on Irish streets and in Irish fields, should the need arise.

In the meantime the British army continues to recruit and train in Ireland in preparation for operations across the globe including ‘tours of duty’ in other occupied countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

In addition to the 5,000 British soldiers based in Ireland there are also units of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy permanently deployed in the six counties.

Ten Permanent British Army bases in Ireland:

Abercorn Barracks, Ballykinler
Balykinler Training Camp
Divis Key Point (Divis Mountain)
Duke of Connaughts Unit, Belfast
Kinnegar, Hollywood
Magilligan Training Camp
Massereene Barracks, Antrim
Palace Barracks, Hollywood
Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn

The final element of Britain’s trinity of security agencies in Ireland, MI5 are currently building a new state-of-the-art headquarters inside of the British Army’s Palace Barracks in Belfast.

This new building will be needed to coordinate the increased workload of MI5, as during the course of 2007 responsibility for matters of ‘national security intelligence’ passed from the RUC/PSNI to MI5.  This move was widely seen as an attempt to ensure that the limited powers of the police ombudsman and the policing boards could not be used to investigate British spying and intelligence gathering in Ireland.

While MI5 is the ‘domestic’ wing of the British ‘Security Services’ this has not prevented it from regularly operating in the twenty-six counties.  Nor does its apparently benign role in gathering intelligence prevent it from engaging in the use of lethal force.  These two points are best illustrated by the central role that MI5 agents played in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings in 1974 which killed 33 and injured over 300.

The exact number of people currently working for MI5 in Ireland, either as full-time employees or as voluntary or paid agents, is a closely guarded secret.  Their new headquarters, which stretches to over 10,000 square feet, is estimated to be capable of housing up to 400 employees.


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