Is Ireland prepared to tackle threat of terrorism from within?
2015-08-01 14:49:44 -
World News

By Victoria Prince


It was only a few weeks ago that Seifeddine Rezgui Yacoubi open fire at a popular tourist destination near Sousse in Tunisia, killing 38 people – three of whom were Irish citizens.


In the wake of this tragedy, EU foreign ministers met on Monday 20 July to discuss the ongoing threat posed by Islamic extremists the likes of Yacoubi, in a year also marked by the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January.


Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan revealed in a recent interview that “security co-operation, intelligence gathering, and counter-terrorism [are] perhaps the most important” goals being discussed at what is a series of meetings with his EU counterparts.


Asked in an interview on RTÉ Radio 1 about his level of concern regarding the possibility of Islamic extremists entering Ireland, Minister Flanagan said it is “a matter of great concern, but the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald and I keep in very close contact on this issue. I believe it’s important that we have an appropriate programme of intelligence gathering throughout the European Union.”


Also on 20 July, the Garda released its 2014 Annual Report, in which it reacts to the allegedly burgeoning threat of extremism in Ireland and its relation to terrorism. 


In the section titled, ‘Strategic Goal One – Securing Our Nation’, the force reveals two performance indicators, ‘National Security maintained’ and ‘Terrorist groups/extremists targeted and identified’. These were decided through “analysis of intelligence threat assessment and targeted operations” and “awareness of identified high-profile, national and international terrorist or extremists suspects”.



Gauging the actual threat

According to Sunday Times security correspondent John Mooney, there are really two categories of individuals the Government chooses to watch more closely than others: people based in Ireland who have shown an affinity for extremist versions of Islam and have been linked to militant or extremist organisations, and individuals who have converted to Islam.


Mooney stresses the inability to predict what individuals may do as opposed to extremist groups. In most cases, he said, “it is the individual sitting alone in their bedroom philosophising” that tends to pose the greatest risk in countries like Ireland.


When observing such converts, it’s important to know how to gauge their actual threat level – looking at intent, ability, and resources available.


And as far as Mooney is concerned, Ireland is already doing a good job of this.


“People don’t understand the security services they have,” he says – whether it’s Garda officers trained to identify possible extremist activity, or the Defence Forces with access to Arabic speakers and translators, and experience on peacekeeping missions abroad. 


Mooney’s confidence in Ireland’s preparedness reflects Minister Flanagan’s earlier remarks, and may sate some fears about such terrorist atrocities coming closer to home.



Extremism ‘infection’

Shaykh Dr Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre also moved to quash concerns, saying that he and his organisation were “very disheartened and disappointed” that some would commit atrocities in the name of Islam.


“Terrorists do not speak on behalf of all Muslims, these people do not represent in any way our faith,” he added, describing IS sympathisers in Ireland as “like an infection... it’s important they are isolated.”


In the meantime, Dr Al-Qadri hopes the Irish Muslim community he represents can “rebuild bridges with the larger community and promote true teachings of Islam, avoid radicalisation of our youth, and ensure that we have launched an ‘Irish Muslim Declaration of Peace and Guide’ to prevent radicalisation.”

TAGS : Tunisia Seifeddine Rezgui Yacoubi EU Terrorism
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