I THINK we have good reason to be a little concerned in this country when it comes to potential terrorist threats from Isis.
I’m no longer a member of An Garda Siochana so I’m not privy to the inside story, but I would be fairly confident that that organisation is facing a bit of a crisis.
The Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, thinks otherwise and has insisted that the risk of a terror attack in Ireland remains low. She was speaking in the wake of the recent incident in Barcelona, Spain.
She explained: “Ireland generally is not at high risk. It’s possible but not likely. You can never tell where a terrorist will strike — that’s the reality. But there’s no intelligence to suggest that we are at risk.”
She added that she’s been ‘impressed’ with the intelligence the gardaí have access to.
She said gardaí have the necessary intelligence, intervention capability and resources to deal with the threat of international terrorism. She added that they were also supported by the Defence Forces and that all necessary resources and supports are being given.
Our Government leaders and senior police managers have been singing from the same hymn sheet and they have been consistent in this regard. They agree that a terrorist attack is possible in Ireland, but highly unlikely. What worries me, is how Frances and Co are reaching this conclusion.
Nóirín O’Sullivan, recently retired garda commissioner, has said that 300 garda ethnic liaison officers have built up “very close relationships” with minority communities. She said that the gardaí had very good relations with minority communities and that they have a number of officers who could speak a variety of languages.
To be relying on community gardaí and garda ethnic liaison officers for gathering intelligence makes little sense. Garda community policing members and ethnic liaison officers were usually one and the same thing and those people have been decimated in recent years, to the point of extinction in most areas of the country.
The role of the community garda and the garda ethnic liaison officer is to talk to people: To engage with representatives of the various communities in their area and to establish communication with each of them. They are a vital cog in the intelligence wheel.
They monitor racist incidents, liaise with victims, deal with local organisations providing support, and develop relationships. They facilitate and encourage integration, assist in the investigation of racist incidents and ensure that appropriate support is available to members of ethnic minorities, and monitor the delivery of appropriate policing services to ethnic minority communities.
This is fundamental work if you want to build trust and confidence in the community, and vital if you want to generate relationships and develop two-way communication.
So, how do you find out who your local ethnic liaison officer (ELO) is?
According to www.garda.ie, the list of ethnic liaison officers is available on the garda website. I was curious and tried to find it but I couldn’t. When I Googled Garda Ethnic Liaison Officers, I did find a list and my name was on it, along with two other retired colleagues. I suspect that many others on that list have moved on as well.
But that’s not my only concern. There are a couple of other things that have me worried.
Joshua Molloy, originally from Ballylinan in Co. Laois, served in the British Army for four years before joining Kurdish resistance fighters to fight against Isis. He has some experience when it comes to dealing with Isis and he made a very valid point in an article he wrote recently. He suggested that the time has come to put bollards in place on the pedestrianised streets in Dublin.
His argument is that there are many of these radical terrorists trading information on the internet, encouraging each other to take action against the infidels.
While those pulling the strings of Isil may not deem Ireland to be a legitimate target worthy of an attack, all it would take is for one lone wolf to take it upon himself to carry out an atrocity. For that reason alone, he suggests we should be better prepared.
The President of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said the force is not adequately trained or resourced to deal with a terrorist attack. Antoinette Cunningham said that community policing has been decimated. She added that most intelligence gathering starts in local communities and when you don’t have community guards placed in local areas, then people cannot gather the intelligence that is needed to fight terrorism.
Dr Umar al Qadri, Imam and Chair of Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, is aware that a number of people in Ireland are spreading their “hate narrative” through social media and offline. He issued a warning two years ago there were extremists in Ireland. He said that certain members of the Muslim leadership are allowing extremist views to be spread because they’re not “calling out” those who share views that are “un-Islamic”.
According to Tom Clonan, Security Analyst, there are five terror threat levels as they apply to Ireland, ranging from ‘Low’ to ‘Critical’. Currently, Ireland’s terror threat status lies at the second level, ‘Moderate’, meaning that an attack is possible but unlikely.
He can’t understand why, despite recent terror attacks involving so called ‘lone wolf’ attackers employing ‘low-cost’ opportunistic means, the Minister for Justice and An Garda Siochana have not raised the threat level here.
A year ago, he would have considered that an Islamist attack in Ireland was in theory possible, but highly unlikely. He now says that an attack here is a distinct possibility and we should raise our threat level to that of ‘Substantial’ where an attack or incident is a ‘strong possibility’.
Maybe somebody should have a word with Frances Fitzgerald.