Friday 21 October 2016

We must measure our actions on jihadi threat

Published 23/07/2016 | 02:30

Isis followers
Isis followers

Ireland is a relative backwater in a European context when it comes to the problem of Islamic extremism. Although Irish citizens have lost their lives in terror atrocities in the US and Tunisia, there has not been a jihadi attack on Irish soil and the Government regards the chances of such an event here as "possible, but not probable".

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The threat from dissident republicans remains a much bigger priority for our security services.

That does not mean Ireland can take its eye off the ball and ignore the growing threat of Islamic extremism spreading across Europe. Indeed, the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces have a major role to play.

Fears have long been expressed about Irish-based sympathisers acting as facilitators, providing finance and helping with logistics for jihadi fighters.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald says there are "a limited number" of sympathisers based here and these are being closely monitored. She recently approved the deportation of an alleged Isil facilitator to Jordan, despite claims he would face torture there. The decision was deemed lawful by the High Court.

The minister has said she would "make no apology" for deporting people identified by intelligence reports as extremists - even if the evidence against them would be deemed insufficient to support a criminal prosecution. Such action would be to protect the State, she said.

The minister is to be supported for seeking to provide strong leadership on this issue. But it is important such deportations do not become the default response when dealing with suspected extremists.

Every effort should be made to fully investigate intelligence claims and bring prosecutions; but checks and balances should not be discarded.

Talk of Border poll needs extra careful handling

Flying kites in Donegal may be fine for Taoiseach Enda Kenny and some of his ministers. Along with long summer holidays, it is something of an annual tradition for our chattering classes. However, Mr Kenny, of all people, has to be aware of how sensitive our northern brethren are, on all sides of the political divide, and most particularly when it comes to loose talk about a united Ireland.

The very phrase still strikes dread into the hearts of a large cross-section of unionists. The Taoiseach has not endeared himself to the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster, and in the wake of his comments about a 'Border poll' she has teasingly, we can only hope, warned him to "stay away from Donegal".

On a more serious note, she also said his comments at the British-Irish Council, repeated at the MacGill Summer School, on the future of the Border were "unhelpful and causing instability". We have had enough instability in this country over what used to be called 'the national question' and it might be prudent for our Taoiseach to 'leave well enough alone', as they say in his part of the country.

Because we are a divided island, the governments north and south are in a particularly delicate position as Britain begins to disengage from the European Union. While Mr Kenny's idea for an all-Ireland forum on the issue is a good one, he should have consulted Ms Foster before flying it.

He must now do his utmost to avoid making a delicate situation worse. Even flippant summer school rhetoric could re-open old sores.

Irish Independent

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