Monday 21 January 2019

Declan Power: 'Wake-up call that proves more checks required before the State bestows gift of Irish citizenship'

  

An armed IS fighter in Syria
An armed IS fighter in Syria

Declan Power

Reports that an Irish citizen was captured fighting for Isil (Islamic State) in Syria are not too surprising considering just over two years ago a native-born Irishman, Terry 'Khalid' Kelly, was killed carrying out a suicide attack for Isil in Syria.

In this latest news, it seems to make more sense in that he was not born and raised in Ireland like Kelly, but more likely to have been radicalised abroad.

However, the disturbing indications are he was radicalised here, most likely after he had obtained his Irish passport. This would mean he had spent approximately five years living and working here.

It remains to be confirmed by the authorities when he came to their attention, but it has been suggested that a partner nation's intelligence service alerted the Security and Intelligence Branch of An Garda Síochána to the man's activities and the extremist individuals and organisations he was alleged to be consorting with.

This matter should be cleared up as a matter of course. We need to know our own authorities know what is happening in our own backyard.

In fairness to them, they have demonstrated a pretty consistent track record of monitoring and containing extremist activities of all hues in this jurisdiction.

The fact remains that a known radical originally from outside this jurisdiction obtained citizenship and travelled to fight for a regime completely inimical to the interests of the Irish State and its people.

This incident has provided a valuable wake-up call to examine our system of background checks for those seeking citizenship.

For some time in certain senior government service circles, there has been disquiet about the process of awarding citizenship in Ireland.

Most seeking citizenship have lived blameless and productive lives in this jurisdiction.

However, in frequent cases there are many coming from failed states where it is impossible to run a background check.

In addition, we should also not rely completely on information coming from states that do function, but are totalitarian or very alien in nature to our own state.

Considering the new reforms being assessed by the Government for policing and security, including a new Strategic Threat Assessment Centre, would it not be worth now considering the development of an informal apparatus of security information gathering abroad wherever there is an Irish consular or embassy presence?

Declan Power is an independent security and defence analyst

Irish Independent

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