Fears raised that potential Jihadists may be hiding in Ireland following revelation that one of the three London Bridge killers lived in Dublin
By Adam Shaw
New Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, who is expected to be the next Taoiseach, has announced his intention to set up a ‘Cobra-style’ Cabinet committee to deal with the threat of a possible terrorist attack in Ireland.
It follows the events in London last weekend which saw at least seven people killed and almost 50 injured when terrorists, including Rachid Redouane embarked on a van and knife rampage in the city.
On the evening of 3 June, three men drove a vehicle at speed into pedestrians on London Bridge before jumping out and heading to nearby Borough Market where they began indiscriminately stabbing people. They were wearing what appeared to be fake explosive vests.
Within eight minutes of the initial call out to the police, they had all been shot dead.
The next day UK government officials met in for a special ‘COBRA’ (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) meeting to discuss how to proceed following the attack.
Prime Minister Theresa May, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon were among those who attended the initial meeting and campaigning for the upcoming general election was suspended by all major parties.
It is understood the PM and senior officials were briefed by police and MI5 chiefs on emergency services’ response and the latest intelligence on the attackers and any known associates.
Enough is enough
In a statement at Downing Street, Mrs May insisted that the UK would not be brought to its knees by such callous violence but that it was vital that the country looked at its approach to fighting terrorism.
“It is time to say enough is enough,” she said. “Everybody needs to go about their lives as they normally would.
“Our society should continue to function in accordance with our values. But when it comes to taking on extremism and terrorism, things need to change.
“As a country, our response must be as it has always been when we have been confronted by violence.
“We must come together, we must pull together, and united we will take on and defeat our enemies.”
Mr Varadkar hopes to adopt a similar group to the UK’s ‘Cobra’ committee within 50 days of taking up the Premiership in Ireland. The Irish government, meanwhile, warned that the country is not immune to an incident similar to the London Bridge attack even though its security status remains the same.
“Although Ireland is not at high risk of a terrorist attack, it is important to be prepared for every eventuality,” a spokesman for Mr Varadkar said.
“The new Committee will allow greater ministerial involvement in preparing for and managing major security threats, and more extensive cross-Departmental cooperation on these issues.”
One of the terror suspects was found to be carrying an Irish ID card and it is understood that he had lived in the Rathmines area of Dublin. He was named by Scotland Yard on 5 June as 30- year-old Rachid Redouane.
Believed to be a pastry chef of Moroccan origin and married to a Scottish woman, he was not thought to have been under surveillance by gardaí.
“There are a small number of people in Ireland who are being monitored and observed in respect of radicalisation and matters relevant to that,” Taoiseach Enda Kenny said while on a trade mission to Chicago.
“In this case these facts are being checked, but my understanding is that this individual was not a member of that small group.”
In a statement, the Garda said it was “providing every assistance” to its colleagues in the London Metropolitan Police in relation to the terror attack.
“We will process all requests from the UK authorities in relation to enquiries into individuals, identities or any other matter,” the statement said.
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Flanagan condoned the incident and described it as “an unspeakable atrocity” and “an attack on innocent people doing what we all like to do on a Saturday evening”.
However, with reference to the situation in Ireland, he told RTÉ Radio that he was “absolutely confident” that the gardaí had things under control. He added that intelligence is shared at the highest level between the UK and Ireland and throughout the entire European Union.
“I did speak to the Minister for Justice [Frances Fitzgerald] earlier this morning. She in turn had already spoken to the Garda Commissioner [Noirin O’Sullivan],” he said. “We don’t have any direct evidence of any threat here for Ireland in terms of our national security but of course we’re by no means immune, we’re by no means exempt.”
According to Mr Flanagan, the level of threat remains at “moderate” and a serious incident in Ireland is still “unlikely”.
However, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said low-cost terrorism, such as the truck attacks in Nice, Stockholm and London, could happen in Ireland.
“There is no reason why Ireland, as a modern, democratic and neutral country, would not be at risk,” said James Morrisroe, from the Garda’s Cavan-Monaghan division, told the GRA conference in April.
Rank and file gardaí have pointed out that they would like more specialist anti-terror training since they would likely be the first on the scene in the event of a terror attack in Ireland. They pointed out that, since many “lone-wolf ” attacks require little planning or financing, it was vital that the first responders were prepared to deal with the aftermath.
Training could include managing the scene of a major incident in a public place; learning how to best divert crowds from risk or evacuating large areas quickly and safely.
The weakest link
For example, the GRA stated that the speedy erection of security cordons might be the difference between an attacker being caught quickly or not.
It also noted that rank and file officers in all other European countries have been given anti-terrorism training by their police forces. Tom Clonan, a security analyst based in Ireland, told Newstalk Breakfast that the country is “the weakest link” when it comes to counter-terrorism”.
“We really do need to have an open, calm and mature discussion about our security,” he said. “We’re very different to every other European Union state because we don’t have a proper security infrastructure.
“Irish citizens are the least well-informed citizens throughout the European Union in terms of what the terror threat is and what to do in the event of a marauding attack such as the one in London last weekend.”
The issue has been brought to attention once again given the remarkably quick response from the Metropolitan Police. And Mr Clonan said he was pleased that Mr Varadkar was contemplating adopting the COBRA model going forward.
“Leo Varadkar’s announcement is to be welcomed because one of the criticisms felt within the defence and security industry here is that previous ministers for justice and Taoisigh didn’t often have time to be in the same room as the chief of staff or the commissioner to talk about threats,” he said.
“Very often it was just general secretaries and senior civil servants that sat down and it was more of a policy-making group rather than a workshop for walking us through what we would do in the event of an attack like Westminster or London Bridge.”