Gar­daí ‘need to track fight­ers re­turn­ing from Syria and Iraq’

Irish Examiner - - News - Cor­mac O’Ke­effe

Gar­daí need to track re­turn­ing Ir­ish-based fight­ers from Syria and Iraq, a for­mer Bri­tish am­bas­sador to Dublin has said, adding that Ire­land should not be “com­pla­cent” about the pos­si­bil­ity of a ter­ror at­tack.

Ivor Roberts, a board mem­ber of in­ter­na­tional lobby group Counter Ex­trem­ism Project, backed calls by an Ir­ish imam for a Gov­ern­ment-led rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion strat­egy.

Mr Roberts said he shared the view of the EU’s se­cu­rity com­mis­sioner, Ju­lian King, who said Ire­land was vul­ner­a­ble to what he termed “low­cost” ter­ror­ism, such as the use of a ve­hi­cle to kill peo­ple.

Hav­ing served as for­mer head of counter ter­ror­ism at the Bri­tish For­eign Of­fice, he noted that a for­mer mem­ber of al Qaeda said ear­lier this year that Ire­land was a ‘soft touch’ for a ter­ror at­tack as it did not have its own ded­i­cated do­mes­tic in­tel­li­gence ser­vice.

Mr Roberts, how­ever, told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ ra­dio that was “not his assess­ment” from his time in Dublin, where he reg­u­larly met with both the Garda com­mis­sioner and the PSNI chief con­sta­ble. He said sources in Ire­land had told him some 30 for­eign fight­ers had trav­elled to Syria and were thought to be likely to re­turn home. It has pre­vi­ously been re­ported up to five of these are known to have died.

Mr Roberts said that, as the IS hold in Syria con­tin­ues to weaken, it will use the re­turn of for­eign fight­ers and other “sleep­ers” in Europe to carry out at­tacks.

“I don’t think any­one, whether they are in Britain or Spain or Ire­land, can re­main com­pla­cent about the risk,” he said.

He said gar­daí should work closely with in­ter­na­tional coun­ter­parts to track the move­ments of re­turn­ing fight­ers. He said he imag­ined gar­daí were do­ing this.

Mr Roberts said it was “ab­so­lutely im­per­a­tive” close co-op­er­a­tion be­tween Ire­land and North­ern Ire­land and Britain con­tin­ues after Brexit.

He called on gov­ern­ments and the EU to “pres­sure” so­cial me­dia and en­cryp­tion firms on the use of their ser­vices by ji­hadists.

“Tech com­pa­nies only re­ally re­spond when they are threat­ened with reg­u­la­tion or pos­si­bly a loss of ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue,” he said.

Mr Roberts backed calls made by Shaykh Umar AlQadri for a rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion preven­tion strat­egy.

Shaykh Al-Qadri told the Ir­ish Ex­am­iner yes­ter­day that he dis­agreed with state­ments from An Garda Síochána that its com­mu­nity re­la­tions pro­gramme was re­duc­ing the op­por­tu­nity for rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion.

He said while the pro­gramme was wel­come and built up re­la­tions with imams it was not reach­ing the grass­roots.

Shaykh Al-Qadri said a “steer­ing com­mit­tee” should be set up by the Gov­ern­ment, com­pris­ing re­li­gious lead­ers, gar­daí, and men­tal health and other ex­perts “to es­tab­lish a pol­icy to pre­vent rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion”.

He called for reg­u­la­tion of mosques and imams, say­ing any­one can set one up and start preach­ing.

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