This despite the fact that intelligence and security services in Britain are at full stretch after the recent terrorist bomb attacks.
Speaking in New York last week, the British government’s under secretary of state in charge of security and policing, Shaun Woodward, said that right now the organization of intelligence gathering in Northern Ireland was not an issue.
“All resources are available and I don’t think anybody will be refocusing,” Woodward said.
All necessary resources would be made available for intelligence work, whether in Northern Ireland or Britain, he indicated.
The plan to hand responsibility for intelligence-gathering to MI5 has raised concerns with police reform watchdog Al Hutchinson.
Hutchinson has warned that the plan to take intelligence primacy away from the Police Service of Northern Ireland and give it to MI5 could undermine the Patten reforms and hurt the fight against organized crime.
MI5 is due to take over primary responsibility for intelligence gathering in Northern Ireland in 2007.
Hutchinson, the former Canadian Mounted Police chief said he raised concerns about the transfer plan because he did not want to see Patten undermined.
“I do not want to see that effectiveness changed,” he said.
“We don’t want to end up inadvertently recreating what we had before, where you have an impenetrable wall between intelligence gathering and the needs of the community.”
However, Woodward said that with two thirds of the Patten reforms now in place – the exact total according to Hutchinson is 114 out of 175 – there was little danger of the MI5 plan cutting across the anticipated completion of those same reforms.
And he said the reforms were going along way towards building trust in the Catholic community with regard to the PSNI.
Almost 20 percent of the force was now Catholic and the percentage was rising.
Catholics in northern Ireland, he said, were beginning to feel that the PSNI was “their police force” too.
With regard to MI5, Sinn Fein has expressed concern over the transfer of intelligence work to the agency and had based its refusal to take part in the police boards in part on the plan to concentrate intelligence gathering within MI5 and not in a future devolved Stormont administration.