Saturday 20 July 2019

New terrorism threat requires fresh thinking

The annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors is taking place today Stock photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors is taking place today Stock photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire


We must plan for the worst and hope for the best when it comes to the new terrorist threat Ireland faces, along with all western democracies. That is the brutal lesson of recent horrors in Paris and Brussels.

Today, senior gardaí, gathered in Westport for the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), will spell out their fears about potential attacks arising from the new kind of subversive threat posed by al-Qa'ida, Isil and their myriad affiliates. Few of us will be surprised to learn that AGSI members fear there are large gaps in our state of preparedness.

It is probably equally unsurprising to hear that the limited knowledge and expertise that the security services do possess is very much centred on the Dublin area. That leaves a large vacuum in other centres of population around the country, leaving opportunities for radical men and women of violence to plan and prepare with impunity.

During the years of what we still euphemistically refer to as 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland, the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána and the Irish Prison Service did the citizens of this State some considerable service. They stood their ground at a time when our democratic institutions were threatened - and some of their members paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Alas, the remnant of that threat persists and our security services remain preoccupied by it.

Meanwhile, a newer but more recondite threat faces us all. It is a threat we struggle to understand and we are left with cultural and linguistic gaps as we try to come to terms with it.

Of course, the AGSI is essentially a trade union dedicated to its members' welfare. But it also has a record of responsible behaviour and carefully chosen words when speaking on matters of State security. Nor is it in its members' interests to "stoke things up" on this issue.

For all these reasons, we hope the authorities will listen to AGSI calls for a full evaluation of garda preparedness to deal with these threats, including the dispersal of trained personnel and equipment around the country.

Moreover, this issue is yet another reminder of the need for prompt agreement on stable government.

The housing shortage must be tackled - now

We need to address - and address urgently - the shortage of housing supply and to tackle the high cost base of construction in particular. This must be a top priority for whatever new government emerges from the current political miasma.

That is the main lesson from the latest house price study, outlined in this newspaper today. The survey notes that prices are static around Dublin - which was traditionally the country's most expensive market.

But outside Dublin, there have been significant price rises - something that is undoubtedly fuelled by a lack of supply. Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway have all recorded hefty increases.

The report's author notes that supply is at its lowest level since the economic crash - and this problem must be tackled. Housing is the key issue facing this country right now, as it threatens both our economic and social wellbeing. We need a government - and a new and empowered Housing Minister - to take this issue head-on.

But we also need to depoliticise the issue and agree a cross-party strategy in order to get more houses built.

Irish Independent

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