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Monday 22 September 2014

Jihadi fighters risk losing their Irish passports

Published 22/08/2014 | 02:30

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Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Jihadi fighters who are found to be using Ireland as a base for regular trips to conflict zones in Syria and Iraq face losing their citizenship of this country.

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Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has warned she will take a tough line if there is strong evidence presented by the gardai against a suspect.

The minister was responding to yesterday's Irish Independent story that garda intelligence has pinpointed 30 jihadi fighters, who are resident here but travel regularly to the combat areas.

Mrs Fitzgerald said: "In the event of any information being brought to my attention, raising doubts about the good character of any naturalised citizen, I will not hesitate to invoke the statutory process, which is in place for the consideration of revoking citizenship".

That process requires the minister to establish a committee to examine the evidence that has been gathered and presented by the gardai.

After the evidence and intelligence has been reviewed, the suspect will then be given an opportunity to reply to the allegations.

The minister will then determine if she should use her powers under section 19 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship and revoke citizenship.

This action has not been taken by any government in recent memory but officials point out that they are now operating in a different "landscape".

The increase in the number of EU citizens becoming involved in the conflicts has already prompted other governments, including the British, to adopt a tougher stance.

Last night Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins (inset) said the activities of Islamic State - the group responsible for the beheading of journalist James Foley - were appalling.

He believed the fact that Irish citizens might be involved in the fighting was deeply disturbing and called on the minister to disclose what was being done to establish the truth and to outline what sanctions were available to her.

He also urged Mrs Fitzgerald to outline her citizenship revocation options to the public.

Gardai from the Special Branch Middle Eastern desk and military intelligence, who are both responsible for monitoring international terror suspects, have both stepped up their surveillance efforts, as part of an EU-wide move to trace their movement and identify their associates.

The European crackdown is being waged in the midst of growing fears over the radicalisation and security risks the jihadis pose when they return from the conflicts.

However, so far there is no indication that recruitment in this country is on the scale seen elsewhere in the EU.

Some of the jihadi suspects here are travelling on Irish passports and those can be taken away from them if they lose citizenship. Others are posing as humanitarian aid workers.

Irish Independent

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