Leaked memo from head of security at Heathrow shows that Metropolitan Police fear Irish terrorist attack

The Metropolitan Police have advised airports operator BAA to increase security at its £3.6bn Heathrow Terminal 5 project in West London because of a renewed threat from the IRA.

After years of anticipating an attack from al-Qaeda, the advice marks an unexpected switch in emphasis back to Irish terrorists.

A leaked email circulated by David Olley, head of security at Terminal 5, revealed that extra police would be deployed on the T5 site and that there would be more frequent searches of construction workers at two site entrances.

The email, which has been seen by Building, said: “The police are advising of increased sensitivities following events in Northern Ireland over the past few weeks.”

BAA has also been obliged to provide employment and identification details of thousands of construction workers to allow the police to carry out identity checks.

T5 workers will be asked to be extra vigilant over suspicious vehicles parked on or around the airport and for any unusual occurrences. The email added: “We will also be introducing various other measures in support of our [police] response.” However, the message noted that there was no specific threat to the airport or T5.

The renewed focus on the IRA threat coincides with a deepening crisis in the peace process after the £26.5m bank raid in Belfast last December, which was blamed on the IRA. The government this week responded by cracking down on Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA.

Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy announced proposals on Tuesday to strip the republican party of its entitlement to up to £500,000 in House of Commons expenses, paid to the party’s four MPs. He also confirmed that Sinn Fein’s £120,000 Stormont allowances would be suspended for another year. It was stopped last spring after the IRA’s alleged involvement in an abduction.

The police are advising of increased sensitivities after events in Northern Ireland

David Olley, head of T5 security

Murphy told the Commons that the penalties had been imposed to convey the government’s “strong disapproval” of the bank raid.

A BAA spokesperson said: “Safety and security are always a priority at Heathrow and while there is no specific threat we have reminded airport workers to be vigilant. Security at T5 is constantly under review and any changes or additional measures will not adversely affect the day-to-day arrangements for workers.”

n M&E contractors at T5 face big bills after an independent panel ruled that M&E workers are entitled to compensation payments to cover travelling pay. The panel has yet to decide how much will be awarded, but the unions are claiming £25 a day for each worker.

T5 M&E contractors, which include Amec, Crown House and Balfour Kilpatrick, are angry with the panel’s employer representatives for awarding the travel pay.

An industry source said: “They are furious that they have had to accept the decision to pay the extra cash. BAA won’t pay it, so it will come off of their bottom line.”

The contractors have three real options, the source said. The option of taking the hit could cost them millions once the project is fully staffed with more than 1500 electricians on site. Refusing to pay would mean watching the site’s Major Project Agreement collapse and workers take industrial action. Or finally, they could reject the authority of the independent panel and appeal the decision, which could throw the project into disarray while the union Amicus defends the travel pay award.