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Declan Power: Could an attack like Paris happen here? Yes, it could

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Still image taken from amateur video shows gunmen fleeing the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, after killing at least 12, in Paris

Still image taken from amateur video shows gunmen fleeing the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, after killing at least 12, in Paris

Still image taken from amateur video shows gunmen fleeing the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, after killing at least 12, in Paris

The recent Islamic terrorist outrages in France have once again shown western Europeans how vulnerable we are to attack.

While there have been attacks in Spain and London that were conceived and executed by al-Qaida cells, what makes these ones so disturbing was their simplicity.

A lot has been made of the level of training and prior planning that went into the Paris attacks. However, the reality is the attack was not very sophisticated terms of intelligence gathering or execution.

The biggest factor that determined the attack’s success was the fact the Kouachi brothers had reportedly trained in the Middle East and had no hesitation in killing or facing death.

Their actions caught the entire French security apparatus on the hop. Could such an attack take place in Ireland?  Most certainly it could.

Aside from the London-based Islamic firebrand Anjem Choudary, who warned of Ireland’s target status due to our assistance to the US military via Shannon, our close cultural and tourism links to the US would make us a target anyway.

Many American tourists visit Ireland because they feel safer than anywhere else in Europe. If we do not guard this reputation and are seen as being casual with our security planning they will go elsewhere.

It is already a matter of record that jihadists have been operating quietly in Ireland in support of their more bellicose brethren.

havens

Providing safe havens, channeling funds and providing fake documentation are areas in which jihadists in Ireland have helped the broader cause.

Often the authorities here have been channeling information on jihadists who are transiting or meeting here and then receiving information in return from other European agencies on the activities of our own home grown dissident republican terrorists abroad.

While the accepted wisdom has been that Ireland is not a likely target we cannot continue to think like this. The desire among radicalised, frustrated groupings is one to lash out, however inarticulate it is.

Also, if the rest of Europe becomes harder to operate in or launch attacks in, then other softer targets will be found.

The idea that Ireland wouldn’t be ever be attacked is a facile one, as is the idea that somehow we are aloof from this.

The sad truth is that while the vast majority of Muslims in the West want to live peacefully their is a violent strain in their midst. This strain can only be dealt with primarily by the Muslim community itself.

Therefore the most effective way for Ireland and Europe to protect itself lies with our relationship with our fellow citizens who are Muslim.

Just like Ireland had to remind the world that being Irish was not synonymous with support for IRA violence, so too must the Muslim community remind those in their midst that they will not tolerate extremism perpetrated in their name.

Islamic leaders must let their people know that the right thing to do is show loyalty to the state that has protected them, and remind them of the despotic regimes many of them fled.

In terms of national security intelligence and security forces in Ireland and Europe are already cooperating extensively in information sharing. But we need to be more imaginative and step it up.

threat

In addition to greater ties between the Muslim community and the authorities, there needs to be greater coordination of the organs that already exist for intelligence and security.

There needs to be greater powers given to the EU’s Situation Centre, to demand intelligence sharing. We need to create an intelligence alliance between EU states as strong as the one between the US and UK.

Ireland’s unique relationship with these two countries and our status in Europe gives us a good platform to lobby for this.

It is in Ireland’s interest to do this as the intelligence sections of both the Defence Forces and the Gardai have identified a significant number of young Muslims who have already left these shores to engage in jihad.

These individuals will eventually pose a threat to Ireland and Europe in the future if the heavy lifting in term of coordination and info sharing isn’t done now.

Declan Power is a former soldier who now works as an independent security and defence analyst


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