Declassified files: Spy gear worth £50m ‘to be left in Northern Ireland after Troubles’

The nature of the surveillance project was unclear (file image)
The nature of the surveillance project was unclear (file image)
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A senior Stormont civil servant was confidentially told that tens of millions of pounds of equipment – including expensive spying equipment – would be left behind in Northern Ireland once the Army left at the end of the Troubles.

Noel Cornick was told in 1994 that the MoD prepared a 10-year programme of long-term costings which at that point included a figure of £893 million for equipment for use in Northern Ireland, of which £720 million represented equipment unique to Northern Ireland operational requirements.

Mr Cornick said: “The balance of £97 million they feel can be attributed to equipment used only in Northern Ireland, which would have no application elsewhere and which, were the Army ever to cease operating in Northern Ireland, would be left behind. We were given some detail of the particular projects which fall into this category, but I am loath to commit those to paper given their sensitivity.

“Suffice to say they include a £50m [£100m today] specialist surveillance project, two ADP systems used exclusively in Northern Ireland (£12 million), one third (£30 million) of a specialist communications system and the purchase of Motorola Spectra radios specially adapted for helicopter use required to ensure compatibility with the RUC network (£5 million).”

The MoD wanted Stormont departments to share the huge costs of its presence in Northern Ireland but they successfully argued against this, pointing out that as security was a reserved matter for Westminster they had no legal authority to incur such expenditure.

Mr Cornick said that he had a sense from the MoD officials that “they clearly feel under pressure form their minister and senior colleagues” to conclude the issue rapidly.