‘MI5 tried to recruit me in France’

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A Derry man claims he was approached at a French airport by two men who identified themselves as members of MI5.

The incident is alleged to have occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning last at Nice Airport when the man was returning from looking for work in the South of France.

The man, who asked not to be identified, said: “As I approached the security desk at the airport, I felt a hand on my arm. There were three French policemen, two in plain clothes and one in uniform, who asked me to go with them as there was a problem with my passport.

“They led me through a few doors into what looked like a police office and then we went into a room with three chairs in it. One of them took my passport, walked out the door and came straight back in and handed it back to me. Then these other two men entered the room - one was an Englishman and the other had a Belfast accent.

“They asked me, ‘What is a wee Derry man doing in the South of France for two days?’

“I told them I was doing a job and then they told me they were from MI5. I asked them what MI5 wanted with me and they said I was a senior member of the new IRA. When I challenged them on this, they said they knew everything.

“They asked me was I willing to work with them. I told them I had never been involved in anything in my life and they then suggested I take a look at a couple of photos. They then produced a folder and showed me a photo of this guy I know who I did work for. They also asked me did I know a couple of other guys and I said no.”

The man claimed he was also offered money which he refused.

“They then offered me a phone number and said to take it and phone them and ask for Jim or Rob. They told me to phone the number at 12 midday on Tuesday and then they let me go but said they would see me again. I have no idea why they would have targeted me as I have nothing to do with anything.”

On Tuesday of this week, the man took the number to his solicitor Paddy MacDermott and phoned it at 12 midday.

Mr. MacDermott said: “Our client phoned this number and the man known as ‘Jim’ answered. He chatted for a bit asking our client’s travel plans and the like. I then took the phone and identified myself and asked what did they want with my client. There was a bit of a fluster at the other end and then they hung up.

“This is a deplorable attempt to recruit a hard working young man with a clear record who was only seeking employment. Actions like this only put people’s lives in danger and, hopefully, he will now be left alone to go about his business. A complaint will be lodged on his behalf.”