Monday 20 November 2017

Varadkar to set up 'Cobra' group to deal with the risk of attack

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar. Picture: Frank McGrath
Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar. Picture: Frank McGrath
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

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

The new Fine Gael leader - who is set to be elected Taoiseach within the next week-and-a-half - has indicated that he will establish the group within 50 days of taking office.

It would be modelled on the British government's 'Cobra' committee, which was convened by British Prime Minister Theresa May in the wake of Saturday night's attack in London.

While the Government here has stressed that there is no change in Ireland's security status after the latest attack in the UK, it warned that Ireland was not immune to such incidents.

The British 'Cobra' group's name comes from the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (Cobra) in the government buildings in Whitehall.

It meets to deal with major crises such as terrorism.

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."

An existing National Security Committee comprises of senior officials from Government departments, the Defence Forces and gardaí.

Mr Varadkar's spokesman said the new committee would "allow greater ministerial involvement in preparing for and managing major security threats", as well as "more extensive cross-departmental co-operation".

Earlier, Mr Varadkar joined other Irish politicians in condemning the latest terror outrage in Britain. "Once again innocent people have been targeted in the most craven and horrific manner," he said.

President Michael D Higgins offered the "sympathy and support" of the Irish people to the victims and their families.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny branded the attack as "cowardly" and "sheer madness" and condemned the "warped motives" of those responsible.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said there was no direct evidence of a threat to Ireland, but told RTÉ: "We're by no means immune."

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar is understood to be considering restructuring the Department of Justice, to create a separate Department of Home Affairs, similar to the arrangements in place in many European countries.

Such a department would likely have responsibility for policing and counter-terrorism.

Irish Independent

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