Subscribers will have noticed a few new profiles of intelligence officers on my Patreon recently, most notably Alastair Crooke of MI6, and John Deverell of MI5, both of whom contributed to a tradition of covert diplomacy that formed one strand of the roots of the Irish peace process.
It's a format that I hope shows some of the potential that can be developed in further narrative chapters of British intelligence in Ireland.
One thing that struck me while researching them is how much the development of a back-channel between the British Government and the republican movement in the early 1990s coincided with the progress of Sir John Stevens' investigation into collusion between the security forces and loyalists. How far was the peace process promoted by the unravelling of a harder-edged alternative?
Another lesson was the strength of the connection between MI5 and the old Colonial Service. Director General Stella Rimington memorably described in her autobiography how intelligence officers were recruited from among the redundant British officials of newly independent colonies in the 1960s, in waves such as ‘the Malayan Mafia or the Sudan Souls’.