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GCHQ 'Have Form' When it Comes To Snooping on Ireland

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | press release author Saturday February 07, 2015 17:28author by Bernard Moffatt - Celtic League Report this post to the editors

Documents released by the ‘whistleblower’ Edward Snowden in late November 2014 revealed that the UK spy facility at GCHQ was targeting undersea cable communications between Ireland and the United Kingdom.

As is usual when such revelations emerge the Irish government (i.e. its Departments of Justice and Communications) wanted to say as little as possible about the issue.



Documents released by the ‘whistleblower’ Edward Snowden in late November 2014 revealed that the UK spy facility at GCHQ was targeting undersea cable communications between Ireland and the United Kingdom.

As is usual when such revelations emerge the Irish government (i.e. its Departments of Justice and Communications) wanted to say as little as possible about the issue.

However, was anyone really surprised by the ‘revelations’ as the UK ‘has form’ in relation to this kind of ‘crime’ (because that’s what it is).

In the late 1980s and for well over a decade the British used a facility at Capenhurst in Cheshire (‘the Capenhurst Tower) to tap into microwave traffic between Ireland and the UK. Fair game you might say in ‘the war against terrorism’ however it turned out that not just anti-terrorist information was being sought but just about any information of an economic, political and personal nature was being ‘trawled up’ by the spooks at GCHQ.

The Microwave link from Dame Court (Dublin) to Holyhead in Wales passed on via Llandona and Prestatyn (Gwaenysgor) to Pale Heights in Cheshire. The Capenhurst intercept tower was constructed almost equidistant between the last two legs, Gwaenysgor – Pale Heights, of the link and gathered every item of communications from what was effectively the main microwave communication system between the two countries.

You have to hand it to the British spooks they are ‘cheeky buggers’. Because as the Celtic League had revealed almost a decade earlier (as part of our military monitoring) the same route that they later bugged was used for many years by their own military forces drafted into the North of Ireland in huge numbers in the 1970s.

Communications were vital for the Army and Intelligence Services but unfortunately the main Microwave link from Ireland in that period had to go through the 26 Counties (there was a link to Enoch Hill in SW Scotland but this did not have huge capacity).
So from the mid seventies until the late eighties encrypted messages were sent South from links at Ballygomartin, Standing Stones Hill to Deadmans Hill then across the six counties border and on to Mt Oriel, Cappagh and Dame Court thence across to Holyhead.

The Dublin government knew this British military and intelligence communications traffic was going through the Republic but did nothing and of course they were paid!

Once news of the matter had leaked the British stepped up plans for a more ‘secure’ link via ‘British’ territory and the microwave link from Dalton in Cumbria to Creg ny baa on the east of the Isle of Man was extended to Carnagrie (IOM west coast) and on to Bishops Court in Co Down and Ballygomartin. (The Celtic League Mannin branch launched a planning appeal against the Carnagrie transmitter but nothing stops the spooks!).

So don’t expect the Dublin government to get to animated about the Snowden revelations as we have revealed the British ‘have form’ on this type of snooping and the Dublin government ‘have form’ on letting them abuse Irish communications facilities!

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information


Link to Irish Times story on the Snowden revelations;

Link to story and pic of the Capenhurst Tower;

(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

Internet site at:

author by techiepublication date Tue Feb 10, 2015 22:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As far as I know the microwave links are used for backup in case the fiber optic cables are out of service for any reason. It would be prudent though of the spooks to cover that too. The capacity of the microwave links would be a lot lower but is sufficient to carry a decent amount of traffic

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