Monday 19 February 2018

Leo Varadkar plans to set up 'Cobra'-style group to prepare for possibility of terror attacks here

'It is important to be prepared for every eventuality'

New Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
New Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

LEO Varadkar wants a high-powered 'Cobra'-style Cabinet committee to prepare for the possibility of a terror attack in Ireland.

The new Fine Gael leader - who's expected to be elected Taoiseach within the next week and a half - has indicated that he intends to set up the group within 50 days of taking office.

It would be similar to the British government's 'Cobra' committee which met this morning in the wake of last night's horror.

While the government has stressed that there is no change in Ireland's security status after last night's  van and knife rampage in London, it has warned that Ireland is not immune to such incidents happening here.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said: "Although Ireland is not at high risk of a terrorist attack, it is important to be prepared for every eventuality."

"The new Committee will allow greater ministerial involvement in preparing for and managing major security threats, and more extensive cross-Departmental cooperation on these issues," he added.

British Prime Minister Theresa May held a Cobra meeting this morning. The group convenes to deal with major crises such as terrorism.

It's name comes from the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (Cobra) in in the government buildings in Whitehall where it meets.

Earlier today Mr Varadkar joined other Irish politicians in condemning last night's attack in London which claimed seven lives.

He said:

"Once again innocent people have been targeted in the most craven and horrific manner.

"We extend our solidarity to the people of the UK and condemn this incident in the strongest possible terms.

"The fact that this comes so soon after the Manchester attack only adds to the horror."

Foreign Affairs minister Charlie Flanagan described the incident as "an unspeakable atrocity" and "an attack on innocent people doing what we all like to do on a Saturday evening".

He said he spoke to Tánaiste and justice minister Frances Fitzgerald this morning and told RTÉ Radio he's "absolutely confident" Gardaí are in control of the the situation here adding that intelligence is shared at the highest level with the UK and right across the European Union.

"I did speak to the Minister for Justice earlier this morning. She in turn had already spoken to the Garda Commissioner.

"We don’t have any direct evidence of any threat here for Ireland in terms of our national security but of course we’re by no means immune, we’re by  no means exempt.

"Our threat level is currently moderate," he added saying the prospect of an attack here is considered "unlikely".

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