State steps up expansion of elite counter-terror unit
Ireland is to accelerate the significant expansion of the Defence Forces's elite counter-terrorism unit, the Army Ranger Wing.
The move, being taken in light of the terror threat facing Europe from Islamic extremists, will see the unit expand to the point where it can, if required, respond to multiple threats in different parts of Ireland.
The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) functions as the elite special operations unit of the Defence Forces with personnel drawn from the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps.
Its training is so demanding that qualified ARW personnel rank alongside the UK's SAS, Germany's GSG9 and France's GIGN as among the most elite counter-terrorism forces in the world.
The unit, founded in 1980 and based at the Curragh Camp in Kildare, is highly secretive of both its training methods and force size.
It is understood to have a total unit strength of about 150 and can undertake operations by land, sea and air.
Housing Minister Simon Coveney, a former defence minister, confirmed that the Government was committed to a significant expansion of the ARW.
"In respect of the Army Ranger Wing, it is very clear from the White Paper on Defence which I was very much responsible for when it was finalised, there is a clear commitment to significantly increasing the size of the Army Ranger Wing," Mr Coveney said.
"I expect that will happen - but it takes time to happen because the training involved in terms of the Army Ranger Wing is quite considerable.
"These are highly skilled and very, very smart members of the Defence Forces and it takes time to train them up to that standard and that level."