IN the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing last week by English-born Salman Abedi of Libyan extraction, which claimed 22 young lives and critically injured as many again – not to mention the wider trauma it caused – the question arises once again as to how safe Ireland is from such a random terrorist atrocity. Also, do we need to have a dedicated special intelligence agency to try to head off such an eventuality here?
At the moment, An Garda Síochána is the main intelligence gatherer about potential terrorist threats and works closely with international agencies. The force had a lot of experience in the past dealing with paramilitary threats during the years of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland and was successful in heading off many attacks through surveillance and a well-established intelligence network, however – especially since ISIS came on the scene – the nature of the terrorist threat is much more complex, disregarding borders, with many languages spoken by its jihadists and the use of modern technology and communications.
Countering the current threat requires so much more than heretofore and one has to wonder can An Garda Síochána cope, given how they struggle to operate in some other areas and the acknowledged low morale in the force at the moment. With sleeper terrorist cells likely to pop up anywhere, we would be foolish to think Ireland is immune from attack, therefore the government needs to satisfy itself that we are as best prepared as we possibly can be.