Tuesday 27 September 2016

Ireland is 'making same mistakes as Germany and France' on terror

David Kearns

Published 28/07/2016 | 02:30

Security expert Chris Phillips says Ireland is greatly exposed to the terror threat
Security expert Chris Phillips says Ireland is greatly exposed to the terror threat

The former head of the UK's National Counter Terrorism Security Office Chris Phillips has warned that Ireland is a "soft target" and that there is a danger in dismissing the threat of radical Islamic terrorism as "someone else's problem".

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Chris Phillips, who is now a security consultant, said that Ireland is greatly exposed to the terror threat and is not in any way isolated or immune.

"Ireland is making the same mistakes that were made by France, Germany and Belgium more than 10 years ago," he told the Irish Independent.

"They're dismissing the threat of radical Islamic terrorism as someone else's problem.

"It's funny, when I visited France and Belgium a decade ago I was told the same thing - that 'this sort of terrorism' was something for the US and the UK to worry about. That it wasn't a major concern.

"Well, as the last 12 months have shown, this is something for the entire West to be worried about. It isn't 'someone else's problem', it's every Western government's concern.

"Ireland is walking into this blind if its Government ignores the lessons that weren't learned by France and Belgium 10 years ago."

Mr Phillips, who was previously detective chief inspector, of the counter terror organisation, said that Ireland should be well aware of the threat of terrorism and how to deal with it, given our recent history.

Read More: Garda and military intelligence step up their monitoring of jihad sympathisers

"Ireland has a history of terrorism marred in religious violence, so it should have been among the first countries in Europe to realise the threat," he said.

"It isn't enough to pretend that these attacks wouldn't come here. A soft target is a soft target. That's what these groups are looking for. It is about making a statement."

Mr Phillips was reacting to the latest string of terror attacks at the heart of Europe - in France and Germany.

He said that it is everyone's responsibility - not just the gardaí, the Justice Minister or the heads of churches - to realise and take on the threat of terror.

"You can't lock up everyone under suspicion of being involved with terrorism. We've learned that that doesn't work and comes with its own problems and consequences," he said. "The kid in his room looking up how to make a bomb online can't be sent to prison for life. Eventually he's going to have to get out. What then? Constant supervision?

"What needs to be done is to empower communities to come forward and expose those within their ranks that are espousing the beliefs that are leading to these terrible atrocities.

Read More: Extremism has no faith - we should not blame religion

"The police can't be relied on all the time, as there is only so much they can do. It is up to the Muslim community to police themselves and bring to attention anyone who is threatening or promoting violence," he added.

"That's not to say it is all up to the Muslim community. The worst thing we can do is lay the blame for these attacks at their feet. They're as much victims as anyone else. Many Muslims have been killed in the recent attacks, and we can't forget about this.

"What we need to do, and this includes the Government, is to make sure that no community is left to feel isolated or abandoned."

"The first step is acknowledging that this isn't someone else's problem," he added.

"Then you've got to empower people to step forward and 'give up' those preaching hate. Stop hate before it is allowed to be given shape. That's the answer. The worst thing we can do is turn against one another."

Irish Independent

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