Cases show we are hugely reliant on foreign intelligence
Published 29/07/2016 | 02:30
Against the backdrop of horrific Islamic terror attacks on the continent, there has been much focus on measures that the authorities here are taking to safeguard the security of our citizens. One tool being used is information provided by foreign intelligence agencies.
How this is used has been the subject of much debate following the deportation earlier this month of a Jordanian national who had lived here for 16 years. Intelligence reports suggested that he was an Isil operative, providing supports to fighters travelling to Iraq and Syria.
However, he vehemently denied this and said he feared being tortured if returned to Jordan.
Prior to his deportation, his legal team questioned why, if the Department of Justice was making such allegations, he had not been charged with any offence.
Speaking generally and not about that specific case, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said there was a difference between intelligence and evidence.
She also made no apology for deporting individuals involved in extremism - even if the evidence would be deemed insufficient for a criminal prosecution.
Amnesty International believes this is a "sticking plaster" solution and that the State has an obligation to investigate, gather proper evidence and prosecute, rather than deport.
Now we have another case where intelligence, most likely provided by foreign agencies, has proved pivotal.
An Iranian man, living in Ireland for 25 years, has been denied access to Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process. But unlike the Jordanian, he was not given any detailed reasons for the State's antipathy towards him.
We know a secret report was compiled, based on "confidential information" passed to the minister, but for a variety of legal reasons it cannot be disclosed.
This latest case highlights just how reliant we have become on external intelligence services.
A Department of Justice official told the High Court that Ms Fitzgerald was "dependent on the goodwill of the external agencies currently providing such information". Giving the Iranian the answers he sought would threaten the supply of such information.
The official argued that in the absence of foreign assistance, the State would be left with two stark choices - either rejecting large numbers of naturalisation applicants whose bona fides could not be verified or taking a risk and granting certificates to people who could turn out to be harmful to the security of the State.