Terror risk sparks high security alert

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday February 27, 2005
The Observer

Ex-cabinet ministers in Britain and members of the judiciary have been advised to step up their personal security over fears of a new republican terror campaign on both sides of the Irish Sea, The Observer has learnt.

Those warned include at least one former Conservative Party minister as well as judges working in Northern Ireland. They were told last week that the level of republican threat against them was now as high as in 1996 - the year the Provisional IRA broke its first ceasefire.

But last night two agents who infiltrated the IRA for the British security services said they were not given any similar prior warning about the increased threat.

Kevin Fulton and Sam Rosenfeld, both of whom worked as informers against the IRA, said letters supposedly sent out from senior anti-terrorist officers last week to agents did not reach them. The duo expressed concern for their safety given that, like all agents, they live under constant fear of IRA reprisals.

In light of the increasing concern about security, The Observer has learnt that the Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr is to meet ACC Sam Kincaid, the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland's crime department, about the measures judges need to take.

Neither the judiciary nor the PSNI will comment publicly about the security alert, although the 7,500-strong police force's own officers were warned last weekend that they must carry their personal protection weapons at all times, even off duty.

One senior security source said it was unclear if the threat came from the mainstream IRA or other dissident groups opposed to the peace strategy of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

'After the Northern Bank robbery it was clear that the PSNI were suffering from an intelligence blind spot. So even the remotest hint either of some kind of IRA resumption or an increased threat from dissidents is being taken very seriously,' he said.

'The current political crisis makes some violent outburst all the more likely. Those who would be regarded by republicans as targets have been warned.'

One of the Tories who received the warning has close ties to unionism and would be regarded as a political enemy in the eyes of Irish republicans. He was informed last week he should increase his security, which in recent years has been relaxed as the peace process developed.

Kevin Fulton, the Special Branch agent who claimed police had prior warning about a dissident bomb attack in Omagh just prior to the 1998 massacre, said that neither he nor fellow informant Sam Rosenfeld had received any security advice. Other agents living in hiding across the Irish Sea have confirmed they were warned to step up their personal security.

'It's a scandal that neither Sam nor I have been informed about any new threat. Why are the authorities keeping us in the dark? Maybe they'd want us to be killed because we are seen as a thorn in their sides?' Fulton said last night.

The ex-agent is suing the British government because he claims it has failed to offer him a retirement package, a new identity and relocation.

Speaking from a secret location in Britain, Fulton added that court papers he had received from the Northern Ireland Office confirmed that he is under a death sentence from former republican comrades.

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