Thursday 22 February 2018

Deporting jihadists justified on national security grounds - Tánaiste

Proposal 'open to abuse' says Sinn Féin, backing Amnesty in calls for fuller investigations

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Pic Steve Humphreys
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Pic Steve Humphreys
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The deportation of suspected Islamic extremists is justified to safeguard national security, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald says.

The Justice Minister pledges to deport suspected jihadists based on intelligence - even if the evidence against them would be deemed insufficient to support a criminal prosecution.

Jonathan O’Brien, Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman. Pic Tom Burke
Jonathan O’Brien, Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman. Pic Tom Burke

Writing in today's Irish Independent, Ms Fitzgerald outlined the thinking behind the policy, which has been slammed by Amnesty International. Sinn Féin has also criticised the proposal as being "open to abuse".

But Ms Fitzgerald said: "I will not entertain the idea that we should ignore our right to legally deport any person, illegally present on our territory, whom we know to be involved in terrorist activities."

She said authorities will always seek to prosecute people involved in criminality where possible.

But she said she would "not ignore any of the legal paths open to me to confront terrorism".

These options include deportation, she said.

"The grounds on which deportation can be based include national security, public policy and also the character and conduct of the individual concerned," Ms Fitzgerald said.

"This does not necessarily mean a criminal conviction and includes intelligence provided by the security services."

Although commenting generally, her remarks come just weeks after a suspected Isil facilitator was deported to Jordan, despite claims that he may face torture there.

Intelligence reports identified the 52-year-old, who had lived in Ireland for 16 years, as the foremost Irish-based facilitator of Isil fighters, and stated he had helped several travel to Iraq and Syria. The man, who cannot be identified, had denied the claims but failed in a High Court bid to halt his deportation.

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Jonathan O'Brien said: "We do not agree with Minister Fitzgerald's position in relation to such deportations.

"We agree with the view expressed by Amnesty International in relation to the minister's comments. When states disregard due process and international law, it does not make the state more secure.

"The State must respect the laws that are in place already. Deporting persons without trial is wide open for abuse."

However, Ms Fitzgerald's stance received the backing of Fianna Fáil.

Read more: Tánaiste stands ground amid criticism of deportation comments

Read more: Ireland 'at moderate risk of lone wolf jihadis'

The party's justice spokesman, Jim O'Callaghan, said deportation was a powerful measure and should be used sparingly, particularly where people have established families with children growing up in Ireland.

"However, if the State suspects, based on credible policing intelligence, that persons are abusing their presence here in order to encourage or participate in terrorist activity then the State is entitled to and should carry out such deportations," said Mr O'Callaghan.

"The permission to remain legally in Ireland is conditional, and should persons abuse that permission then they face the prospect of deportation irrespective of the fact that their alleged involvement in terrorist activity has not been established in the criminal courts."

Labour was more lukewarm in its support of Ms Fitzgerald.

A party spokesman said circumstances could arise from time to time where deportation, as a last resort, is an appropriate response.

However, the spokesman said deportation should never be considered to a country that fails to respect human rights standards and allows the torture of suspects in custody.

Amnesty's Irish executive director Colm O'Gorman has claimed there were "significant failings" in the process used to deport the man to Jordan.

But the High Court ruled that the man had failed to demonstrate he was at risk of torture or that the Tánaiste made an error in her decision-making.

Irish Independent

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