Tuesday 25 July 2017

Integration of Muslim community is best protection against extremists

We need to ensure there is a close working relationship between gardaí and the Islamic community to provide assistance in combating the threat of radicalisation. Stock picture
We need to ensure there is a close working relationship between gardaí and the Islamic community to provide assistance in combating the threat of radicalisation. Stock picture

Jim O'Callaghan

Since the terror attacks in London, there has been a heightened sense of concern in Ireland about whether we are sufficiently prepared to meet the challenge of modern terrorism. This legitimate concern increased when we learned that one of the London murder gang, Rachid Redouane, lived in Ireland in recent years.

It is important that the State carefully plans how to respond to the new challenge posed by these acts of terrorism.

Gardaí have started a thorough investigation into the arrival and stay of Redouane in this country.

If it is the case that he was radicalised in Ireland then gardaí must, and will, relentlessly pursue that trail to see where it leads.

Concern among the public has also increased as a result of conflicting statements from different important members of An Garda Síochána as to whether we are prepared in the unlikely event that the country is subjected to an attack like the one in London.

On the positive side, we can point to the fact that the gardaí have a very experienced and effective Armed Response Unit.

Its effectiveness is apparent in how it has combated gangland crime and dissident republicanism.

On the negative side, however, rank and file members of An Garda Siochána appear to lack training as to how to respond to a London-type attack.

We need to ensure that gardaí are able to respond promptly to such an attack should one take place - not only in Dublin but also in more remote urban or rural areas.

Careful consideration also needs to be given to whether any policy or law changes may be required. We have a National Emergency Co-ordination Centre which is part of the office of Emergency Planning in the Department of Defence.

It is the centre from where a response is planned to major emergencies such as a terrorist attack or a plane crash. Since the Office of Emergency Planning comes under the parameters of the Department of Defence, consideration should be given to re-establishing a full-time Minister for Defence.

There is unquestionably a benefit in establishing on a more formal basis a National Security Committee consisting of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister for Justice, Minister for Defence and senior officers from the Garda and Army Intelligence.

The Garda Intelligence Unit has been effective in this country in infiltrating and fighting terrorism for 30 years and we should be slow to remove intelligence gathering from An Garda Síochána and the Army without carefully considering the consequences.

We should await the Kathleen O'Toole report on the future of policing before making any knee-jerk decision to close down the Garda and Army Intelligence Units in order to establish a separate new unit.

Finally, as we have learned in this country, the most effective way of defeating terrorism is to ensure it does not gain any support or sympathy within our communities.

We need to ensure there is a close working relationship between gardaí and the Islamic community to provide assistance in combating the threat of radicalisation.

We also need to ensure we have sufficient information about whether young, impressionable men (who commit these senseless murders) are being exposed to extremism within the Islamic community.

It is also important the integration of the Muslim community into Irish society continues to be the responsibility of all sections of Irish society, including the Muslim community.

Jim O'Callaghan TD is Fianna Fáil's justice and equality spokesperson.

Irish Independent

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