Gardai get new powers to tackle terrorists overseas
HIGHLY trained members of the Garda's elite squad -- the Emergency Response Unit -- could be deployed on foreign streets as a result of a change in the law.
The legislative measure, currently being drafted, will allow the ERU to be dispatched to another European state to help local police tackle a terrorist or criminal-related crisis.
It will also give the go-ahead for the authorities here to request the assistance of a special intervention unit from another European force if this country is confronted by a similar crisis.
The legislation is being introduced to bring Ireland into line with the law in other countries.
The measure was initiated in the EU following the 9/11 and Madrid terrorist attacks.
But it can only be used where a member state's own emergency-response teams are unable to cope with a particular crisis and seek help from elsewhere in the EU.
It does not cover natural disasters, such as earthquakes or floods.
A member state can seek such specialist assistance where a criminal or terrorist offence poses a serious threat to the security of the country.
Security officials last night acknowledged it was unlikely the measure would be used by the Government here unless there was a threatened total breakdown in law and order.
However, some other EU states are in favour of seeking outside police help.
A spokesman for Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said it was important to bring our laws into line with the EU.
"There is always the threat, however remote, of a terrorist outrage and it is important that we have the legal certainty in place to provide for assistance, if required.
"Or, more importantly, be in a position to offer help to our friends in Europe," he added.
The change amending the law has been included in the new Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.
The risk level for a major terrorist attack is officially classified here as low.
However, considerable resources are provided by the Garda Special Branch and military intelligence in monitoring the activity here of suspected sympathisers of international terror groups.
Most of the suspects living here are regarded as more likely to be involved in logistics than operations. In the past, some of them have been involved in facilitating funding or forging documentation to help active terror cells based elsewhere.
Earlier this year, gardai made a number of arrests in the south-east as part of international inquiries in what became known as the 'Jihad Jane' plot into the suspected planning of a terror attack on controversial Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks.