CONCERNS have been raised after it emerged one of the north’s best known roadside inns may have been under British intelligence surveillance.
Kelly’s Inn restaurant and hotel, which is on the main Derry to Dublin road at Garvaghey, is one of the best known stop-offs in the north and is close to the Tyrone GAA centre of excellence.
Pictures obtained by the Irish News show three sophisticated undercover cameras which were dug into hillside overlooking the popular venue.
Sources have revealed that high powered cameras, a transmitter and battery pack were discovered on a remote hillside overlooking the venue earlier this year.
It is not clear how the surveillance equipment was found or of its present whereabouts.
It is believed dissident republicans may have been the target of the operation.
Three spy cameras and what is believed to be a transmitter found earlier this year in Co Tyrone
There is no suggestion that the venue was aware of any meetings involving such groups taking place on its premises.
A spokesman for Kelly’s said “nothing unusual was observed around the premises.
“There was definitely no meetings held in Kelly’s Inn and we are not aware of any meetings being held locally.”
While it is not known how long the cameras were in place, it is understood the date ‘August 2020’ was written on the power pack.
Handwritten markings can also be seen on some of the other monitoring equipment recovered.
It is understood the cameras were trained on an area to the rear of Kelly’s Inn, which includes a car park and accommodation linked to the hotel.
The bank where the spy cameras, a transmitter and power pack were dug in on the ridge of a hill overlooking Kelly’s Inn, which can be seen in the distance
Although it is not known what arm of the state intelligence network may have planted the cameras, or if other devices remain in the vicinity, in the past specialist British army units have been linked to similar operations.
It is also unclear if the surveillance operation was a joint venture involving different agencies.
The discovery of the sophisticated surveillance operation comes just months after details of a double MI5 sting in Co Tyrone emerged last year.
Two separate meetings near Creggan and Gortin, which are alleged to be linked to the New IRA, were bugged by MI5 and later resulted in the arrest of ten people who have subsequently been charged.
Both locations are about 30 minutes driving time from Kelly’s Inn.
A popular meeting place, the venue is well known for hosting high profile events linked to the GAA.
Its close proximity to the association’s state of the art centre of excellence also means it is a popular meeting place.
A large function room is often used for weddings and dinner dances linked to local GAA clubs.
The area where the cameras were found is close to several Co Tyrone republican heartlands.
It is only a short distance from where eight British soldiers were killed in a Provisional IRA explosion in August 1988.
SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said the public will want assurances that information gathered will not be misused.
“Because of the actions and arrogance of the dissidents to ending their campaign – contrary to the wishes of the people – we are all suffering intensive surveillance by the security services,” she said.
“Many people will understand why the police and other agencies have to do that in order to keep us safe.
“None the less, people will want to have reassurance… that the evidence gathered will only be used for that purpose.”
Ms Kelly said she and her Policing Board colleagues received regular updates from the surveillance commissioner.
“The vast majority of people will know why it’s done but they will also want to know that it’s only for that purpose that it’s gathered and that there is no retention (of information) on law abiding citizens,” she said.