Ireland is also under threat from terror and must prepare, says minister
Published 23/11/2015 | 02:30
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said that "every democracy", including Ireland, is "at risk to some degree" from the threat of terrorism.
She said the "very Western life and democratic values are under attack" by Islamic extremists, which meant that vigilance was now required.
"There is no particular information that we are a target. But every democracy is at risk to some degree because it is the very democratic values that, as we saw in Paris, are under attack. The freedom to be out there, the freedom to go to a concert, to a sports event," she said.
The minister was speaking after the Irish Independent and 'Sunday Independent' revealed that a small number of Irish-based Muslim extremists play a key role in providing logistical and financial support to international terror outfits, especially Islamic State (Isil).
The leader of the network is suspected of procuring false documents and passports, as well as providing small sums of cash to pay for travel and subsistence.
Intelligence sources have revealed that the movements of the group are being closely monitored and that they enjoy "very little if any" support from the Muslim community in this country.
Gardaí have also intercepted a number of UK citizens who came to Ireland by ferry in the hope of obtaining flights to the Middle East without raising suspicion.
The network is subject to constant surveillance by the specialist garda unit, Counter Terrorism International (CTI).
Security sources said that members of the Isil network are believed to provide logistical support to radicalised young women intent on travelling to Syria to fight for the terror organisation.
Western security agencies say these fighters are radicalised even further and pose a serious threat when they return from the war zone with orders to wage terror in their home countries.
The Justice Minister met with her EU counterparts on Friday in the wake of the terror attacks that devastated Paris 10 days ago, killing 130 and injuring more than 350 people.
The ministers pledged to start carrying out "systematic and obligatory" checks on anyone entering the 26-country visa-free Schengen zone - including EU passport holders - to satisfy French demands to root out extremists.
Ms Fiztgerald said: "Of course, it's an appalling vista for the whole of Europe and that's why earlier this year we passed the terrorism legislation.
"We have the legislation in place. If you are out there promoting terrorism, if you are training people for terrorism, if there is evidence in relation to any of that, we have the legislation in place for those people to be prosecuted.
"Of course, this is a notoriously difficult place in terms of evidence," she said.
"But be very sure that the gardaí, who are the security force in the State, are very alert to this issue.
"We are at an extraordinarily serious and complex time in relation to this in Europe. It is the number-one priority across every member state at present. There is going to be a lot more discussion about the resources that are needed."
Meanwhile, an international anti- and counter-terrorism advisor has warned that Ireland is a "legitimate target" for Isil, which will only be controlled through the unity of communities
Noel Whelan believes: "We are going to see a lot more of the attacks" similar to those on Paris because "terrorism is migrating and changing form".
He said: "The Paris attacks are just an escalation of what has been happening in the world in the last few years.
"Ireland has people landing their (the US) aircraft in our country to refuel. The terrorists will legitimately see us as a target because of that.
"People are not being attacked for their religion, they're being attacked for what they represent."
The Dubliner, who is now based in the Mediterranean, is a counter-terror training specialist who has worked with governments around the globe. His colleague Miranda Cooppolse also said that "Ireland should be prepared" for an attack.
She said: "Ireland is at much at risk as any other European city. Getting prepared doesn't mean to only stuff your country and its police with all kinds of weapons. You need to outsmart Isil and, most of all, educate your own people."