Friday 19 January 2018

Cyber criminals, terrorists and break-up of euro among biggest risks facing Ireland

Minister warns that armed forces cannot be neglected

Defence Minister Simon Coveney: value for money
Defence Minister Simon Coveney: value for money
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Gareth Morgan and Tom Brady

Cyber crime, the rise of the Islamic State and turbulence in the euro are among the list of strategic risks the Government has identified facing Ireland.

The potential knock-on effect of the UK general election on Britain's membership of the EU is also highlighted in the 'Draft National Risk Assessment 2015'.

This is the second year a National Risk Assessment has been prepared, and the draft list reflects some changes in the national and international context since 2014.

The risks identified include crime, terrorism, climate change and disease-related issues. They are broken down into five categories - economic, environmental, geo-political, social and technological.

The report acknowledges: "Being small in size and geographically isolated does not protect Ireland from being a target for cyber attacks."

It says the main motives for such attacks remain financial or ideological. "But the tools utilised to carry out attacks get more sophisticated in line with emerging technology.

"This is a threat to key national infrastructure such as energy, transport and telecoms systems," it says.

"A specific risk for the public service is theft or compromising of data collected by the public service which would reduce confidence in public service administration and the use of technology for public services."

It also warns that rapid technological change could "pose the risk of an abrupt shock to employment prospects in certain sectors".

In other economic warnings, it considers the risks of uncertainty surrounding the European quantitative easing plan, potential turbulence in the euro and the risk of unfavourable international tax changes - which would impact on multinational companies here.

It also acknowledges that: "Other significant issues include the consequences of a possible UK referendum on EU membership, which could have significant repercussions both for Ireland in particular and the European Union in general.

"The rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East has added to the high level of volatility ... with spill-over effects on migration across the Mediterranean as well as the possibility of terrorist incidents perpetrated by radicalised EU citizens."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "This Government has a duty to ensure that the ill fortunes which Ireland has experienced never re-occur. We must do this by being open to the future, scanning the horizon to ensure that we are quick to detect any event that could undo us if left unchecked'.

The report was published as Defence Minister Simon Coveney warned Ireland will become vulnerable to emerging security threats unless a new defence policy is fully funded.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Coveney said that the sector did not need to apologise for seeking increased spending - but it had to articulate the value for money that could be provided.

The minister admitted he faced a "real" financial challenge when he brought his proposals before the Cabinet.

But he ruled out any further reductions to the strength of the Defence Forces - which stands at 9,500 members - during his term of office. He also guaranteed that no more military barracks would be shut down.

He said the State was facing a series of new security challenges, including cyber threats, the fallout from mass migration, feared radicalisation of certain groups, and environmental catastrophes. Senior military officers have recently been pushing for a major role for the Defence Forces in tackling the threat from cyber terrorism.

The Government's response is ultimately expected to involve several departments, including Defence, Justice, Communications and Foreign Affairs as well as the Garda and the Defence Forces.

Irish Independent

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