Thursday 17 October 2019

National security chief to be in place this year: Varadkar

Recommendation: Commission chair Kathleen O’Toole
Recommendation: Commission chair Kathleen O’Toole
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted Ireland is "as prepared as any country" to counter an attack similar to the horrific New Zealand atrocities that saw 50 people killed.

Mr Varadkar said that he expects a new threat assessment chief to be in place by the end of the year.

The establishment of a new Strategic Threat Assessment Centre (STAC) led by a national security co-ordinator was one of the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

The Commission was chaired by former US police chief Kathleen O'Toole and it published its report in September of last year.

New Zealand is reeling as the country struggles to come to terms with the atrocity that saw a lone gunman open fire at two mosques in a terrifying slaughter which was broadcast live on social media.

Asked about Ireland's ability to cope with an incident of the kind seen in Christchurch, Mr Varadkar said: "I think we are as prepared as any country can be. We have seen horrendous terrorist attacks occur in Britain, France, America and now in New Zealand.

"You know, countries can only be so prepared for acts of appalling violence that are carried out by individuals or small groups.

"But among the things we are doing in light of the recommendations from the O'Toole Commission is putting together a Strategic Threat Assessment Centre."

Mr Varadkar said that this will be a body under the remit of his department and will co-ordinate the work of Garda intelligence, defence intelligence and the cyber security unit.

He said he expects that the office will be set up and a co-ordinator appointed "certainly this year".

The office was recommended based on the Commission's assessment that changes were needed to ensure that the intelligence capabilities of all of the various bodies involved in protecting the State's security were being drawn together appropriately.

Online

Meanwhile, in New Zealand and around the world, political focus has turned to the role of Facebook and other social media companies in regulating content after live footage of the horrifying attack was widely shared online.

Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos of the attack from its platform worldwide in the 24 hours after the shootings, 1.2 million of which were blocked at upload.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would be raising the matter directly with Facebook.

She confirmed that the company's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, had contacted her to express her condolences after the massacre.

Irish Independent

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