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Gardai must come down hard on crank callers to protect us all

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An armed Spanish police officer stands guard during a security operation at Colon square in central Madrid yesterday. Photo: Reuters

An armed Spanish police officer stands guard during a security operation at Colon square in central Madrid yesterday. Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

An armed Spanish police officer stands guard during a security operation at Colon square in central Madrid yesterday. Photo: Reuters

The evacuation of hundreds of workers from Intel because of a crank claiming to be representing radical Islamic terrorists underlines a major concern for big international companies and the security services.

The gardai and the company concerned, one of the country's biggest employers, had no option but to take the hoax call seriously.

In this incident, Intel's Emergency Response Team (ERT) and the police worked smoothly and effectively together, evacuating the workforce and conducting a search of the premises before declaring it safe.

By last night, detectives had established that the call which claimed that 12 devices had been planted at Intel's sprawling complex in Leixlip was made by a man in Balbriggan, north Dublin, with no connections to any radical organisation.

The motive for the call remains unclear. He was either setting out to cause trouble, or he needs help.

The Government and security services must operate from the premise that lunatic, murderous jihadis pose as much a realistic threat here as they do in Paris, London or Madrid.

But the inevitable heightened state of alert has also given every kind of attention-seeking crank an excuse to pick up the phone and relay a threat.

Each time such a call is made, the gardai do not have the option of differentiating between a fake or a heavy criminal intent on mayhem.

As we have learned over many years, the problem of such threats is perennial; occurring whenever there is a highly publicised increased security alert.

The people behind these spurious calls generally fall into two categories - those with psychological problems, or else trouble makers who derive perverse pleasure from creating chaos and confusion.

Just a few months ago, on the back of the water charges dispute, there was an upsurge in the number of phoned death threats to Government politicians.

And throughout the Troubles, the security services on both sides of the border had to deal with hoax bomb calls on a weekly basis.

The worry now for gardai and major international companies is that other cranks might decide to jump on the scaremongering bandwagon.

What these fools don't seem to realise - or care about - is that every time there is a security alert it costs the taxpayer and the companies concerned heavily in wasted resources and drops in production.

It also instils unnecessary anxiety and stress on the workers being evacuated, not to mention the reputational damage it does to the country as a safe place to do business.

Therefore it affects everyone living in this country doing their bit to drag us out of the penury created by a savage recession.

So if the security services must take all threats - either real or imagined - seriously, then the full investigative powers of the State must be used to identify these hoaxers, and make them amenable to the full rigours of the law.

Irish Independent