Lucinda Creighton: This Government is not doing enough to protect us from global terrorist threat
Published 22/01/2016 | 02:30
In 2014, a total of 1,450 applications for asylum were recorded in Ireland, up 505 on 2013 figures. However, we are well below the European average in terms of asylum seekers who come into Ireland. Official figures show that Ireland receives 0.3 asylum seekers for every 1,000 people living in Ireland, compared to 1.2 asylum seekers per 1,000 across the European Union.
Of the 160,000 refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict to be settled across the EU, Ireland is accepting 4,000 refugees, or 2.5pc of the total number of refugees to resettle across the EU. Ireland represents just less than 1pc of the total population of the EU, so on that basic number, Ireland is punching above its weight in terms of its contribution to addressing the Syrian refugee crisis.
The Office of Refugee Applications Commissioner, an office most Irish people have probably never heard of, is in fact responsible for processing all applications for asylum in this country. The Justice Minister is bound to accept all recommendations from that office unless questions of "national security" or "public policy" arise.
According to reporting across the water, there are 3,000 UK citizens who are suspected home-grown Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. There has been a common travel area in existence between Ireland and the UK since the 1920s, meaning no borders and no passport control. In a Europol report published in 2015, a total of 201 failed, foiled or completed terrorist attacks were reported by seven EU member states in 2014, with more than half of them by the UK.
In a book, published by Cambridge University Press in 2014, entitled 'Eurojihad', the authors estimate that within the European Union there are an estimated 325,000 individuals at risk of becoming Islamic fundamentalists.
A key tenet of the European Union is freedom of movement of people - if we lose that, we lose the union. The balance that is struck, however, in having a no-visa passage across the EU, is that the failed policies of other countries or nations outside the EU that have led to radicalisation can suddenly become a problem at home.
The reactionaries will say that the solution to the risks that Ireland faces is to shut the borders and batten down the hatches. Unless you want comely maidens back at the crossroads and the entire nation back farming the land, this suggestion has no basis in reason or law.
So what can the Government do to keep us safe from the real threats of Islamic fundamentalism that exists, faced with these realities?
A few weeks ago, I suggested on a radio programme that better screening was needed for refugees entering Ireland. This statement found its way to the front pages and was printed across many newspapers. Despite what the Labour Party and others may have you believe, it is possible to meet our humanitarian obligations as well as maintaining Ireland's national security. Logic and basic human compassion demand that we do both.
Ireland can do what is right and accept and create a life for refugees fleeing the horrific barbarism that is being inflicted on them and their families, while making sure that we maintain essential intelligence on who is entering our country.
I believe that Ireland's intelligence services are not fit for purpose and while the global terrorist threat expands, our Justice Minister and the Government are simply not doing enough to protect Ireland from harm.
As we enter the centenary year of the Rising, this State has a chequered history when it comes to intelligence gathering on terrorist threats. For example, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the Omagh bombings, the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, the Warrenpoint ambush and the murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan, to name but a few.
For over 30 years, the provisional IRA under the purported stewardship of Gerry Adams and others, was able to smuggle large shipments of arms and explosives to sustain Sinn Féin's terrorist arm for many years.
The National Security Committee in Ireland, formed in 1974, is tasked with advising the Taoiseach on high-level security issues but includes no minister, no permanent staff, no working groups and conducts no independent analysis.
Unlike most other countries, our intelligence is vested in An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, rather than one single civilian agency. Such is the underfunded and unstructured state of our intelligence services that we rely almost exclusively on foreign agencies for our information. This is no way to protect our country against the modern threat that we all face.
My party, Renua Ireland, has already said that we want to be the people's watchdog in government, if given the chance. And when it comes to security and justice, we will not allow the threats that face Ireland to continue to remain unabated and we aren't afraid to make the reforms that are necessary.
Lucinda Creighton is a TD and leader of Renua Ireland