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Saturday 17 August 2019

US companies monitored for jihadi threats

Security forces make assessments to ensure US multinationals based in Ireland remain safe

Fortress: The US Embassy in Ballsbridge has been heavily fortified for years
Fortress: The US Embassy in Ballsbridge has been heavily fortified for years

Philip Ryan and Jim Cusack

The possibility of a terror threat against US multinationals in Ireland from Islamic terrorists is being actively assessed by security services, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Senior Government sources last night said that all potential targets for Islamic terrorists, including hi-tech US firms based in Ireland, are being closely examined by gardai as part of a renewed effort to enhance security.

There are also ongoing discussions between gardai, foreign embassies and international firms assessing the potential of jihadi terror groups, such as the so-called Islamic State, launching attacks in this country.

Ireland has become an international hub for multinationals, due to the country's low corporation tax rate.

These companies employ thousands of Irish and international workers and are hugely important to the country's economy.

However, there is concern at the most senior levels of Government that Islamic terrorists hell bent on wreaking havoc on Western society, especially American interests, could perceive these companies as potential targets.

"When you are in a situation like what we are in at present, everything is considered," a senior Government source told the Sunday Independent.

"You have to assess where the threat might arise and you have to do an analysis of it. Obviously, anything that might constitute a threat is examined and analysed and that is part and parcel of the threat analysis."

The senior figure reiterated Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald's position that a terror attack in Ireland was "possible but not likely".

Another source said that security around all US and other inward investment companies was "probably okay" but warned that there is no protection against a lone-wolf-type attack.

Gardai believe there are no terror cells in Ireland like the ones operating in France and Belgium, which were responsible for the horrific multiple attacks in Paris.

However, there are suspected Isil supporters, who have been radicalised through internet propaganda, living in Ireland who are capable of solo jihadi missions.

High-level security sources are also concerned about the lack of State advice for Irish people travelling abroad, as this is when they are at most risk from terror attacks.

"The Government should be doing far more to publicise the threats abroad for the people who are leading the export-driven recovery of this country. They need to be protected," the source said.

In security circles, it is felt that the murders of three Irish people in the July attacks in Tunisia - Larry and Martina Hayes, from Athlone and Lorna Carty from Meath - highlighted the lack of warnings in place.

There is also growing unease among both senior military personnel and gardai about the level of strategic planning by the State's National Security Committee - the co-ordinating executive set up in the 1970s and expanded in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks in the US.

It is understood that the arrangements put in place after 9/11 are "defunct" and need to be updated.

The broad framework for a major emergency plan remains in place and both military and garda sources said that the State response would rely "as usual" on frontline gardai and ambulance services. There is concern about the lack of staff in the Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office.

"We really need to build up far better relations with the Muslim community if we are to avert some kind of attack here. We need to have close relations in particular with young Muslims," a source said.

The Sunday Independent last week revealed that there are suspected jihadi terrorists living in Ireland who have returned from fighting with Isil in Syria and Iraq.

There has so far been no arrests but gardai are closely monitoring the actions of a "handful" of individuals who have returned from war zones in the Middle East.

However, the main terror threat in Ireland remains dissident republicans, according to Government sources.

Gardai have arrested a significant number of dissidents in recent months and the threat from IRA splinter groups is a huge drain on policing resources.

However, the force's vast experience in fighting terrorists has given gardai a head start on other nations fighting Islamic jihadis.

Gardai are reviewing operations to establish if there is a need for additional resources to tackle the threat of international terrorism.

Sunday Independent

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