From Socialist Voice, July 2010

Ireland’s shameful collaboration—and gullibility

An institution with the Orwellian name “Government Communications Headquarters” has operated since the Second World War as part of Britain’s “special relationship” (i.e. servility) to the United States. A secret agreement was entered into in 1946 whereby the British and American intelligence agencies would share illegally obtained information.
     The agreement was later joined by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, West Germany, Italy, Turkey, the Philippines—and Ireland.
     The founding documents, and a selection of former “top secret” reports, have just been released into the British National Archives.
     GCHQ has listening stations at Cheltenham (Gloucestershire), Bude (Cornwall), Menwith Hill (Yorkshire—operated by the United States), Ascension Island (a colonial possession in the South Atlantic), and Dekéleia (Cyprus). Domestic and international telephone and other telecommunications traffic is illegally intercepted, translated, and passed to the various intelligence agencies.
     The main base is a huge special-purpose building at Cheltenham, bristling with radio aerials. Its identity and purpose have long been common knowledge, but up to 1982 successive British governments denied its existence. Ordnance Survey maps of the Cheltenham area showed a blank space for the 175-acre site.
     With a staff of 5,500 and a corresponding budget, this was a difficult secret to keep, yet the pretence was maintained for forty years. This was a result of the original joint agreement, which declares: “It will be contrary to this agreement to reveal its existence to any third party whatever.”
     This vast enterprise was paid for by British taxpayers, though without their knowledge or consent.
     Economic espionage, especially against the Soviet Union, produced vast quantities of trivial information, carefully translated, typed, and filed, including requisitions for lathes and reports of the delivery of laboratory equipment, as well as personal and family messages.
     This is the kind of information that has now been released; but evidence of more serious matters remains secret. GCHQ has been involved in numerous highly irregular activities, especially as a result of its subservience to the United States. In 2003 a sacked employee leaked an e-mail message from American agents that disclosed the wire-tapping of UN delegations by the National Security Agency during the preparations for the invasion of Iraq.
     The Irish state has long collaborated with both Britain and the United States in sharing illegally obtained information on its citizens. When Frederick Boland—later Ireland’s permanent representative at the United Nations—was ambassador to Britain, between 1950 and 1956, he acted as the contact between Irish military intelligence and the CIA. There is no reason to imagine that such practices have been discontinued.
     And there is no honour among thieves. At crucial periods in Anglo-Irish relations, such as during the negotiations on the Hillsborough Agreement in 1985, Britain intercepted communications between the Irish embassy in London and the Department of Foreign Affairs, despite the provision of the joint agreement that affiliated countries would not spy on each other. The Taoiseach of the time, Garret Fitzgerald, learnt of this fact but, characteristically, chose to say nothing about it.
     Another supine Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, denied knowledge of a secret agreement made in 1976 by Liam Cosgrave and later renewed by himself that allowed British military aircraft based in the North to overfly the territory of the Republic. When it was discovered, Lynch lied about it to the members of his own Government.
     In the pecking order of world bullies and regional bullies, Britain’s “special relationship” with the United States is well matched by Ireland’s “special relationship” with Britain.

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