Ireland is not immune to terrorism

Criminologist Donal McIntyre and security analyst Tom Clonan discuss Ireland's preparedness for an attack

On Monday evening, a terrorist took the lives of 22 people in Manchester. On Thursday morning, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny hosted an all-agency meeting to assess how Ireland would deal with such an attack.

While Ireland has not been targeted by an attack of that nature to date, criminologist Donal MacIntyre says Ireland is not totally disassociated from radical behaviour. 

"Ireland is a gateway to countries where a terror attack can be launched or materials can be brought in from. It's also a place where people can become radicalised", says MacIntyre.  

MacIntyre says pockets of Ireland are "breeding grounds" for jihadists. 

Reports emerged back in 2015 that a small group of Irish based extremists had been supplying finances and logistical support jihadists groups including the Islamic State. Speaking to The Pat Kenny Show at that time, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan commented on those reports. 

"Ireland is not immune - we are not in the front line - there isn't any evidence of an imminent threat."

This is a sentiment echoed by Donal MacIntyre today. 

"It is not likely that we will see a lone-wolf terrorist carrying out an attack in Dublin. These types of terrorists seek trophy targets with as big an impact as possible." 

MacIntyre explained how Ireland is used as a testing ground, however, in advance of terror attacks. 

"Irish airports have robust security measures in place. I know from my intelligence sources, however, that our airports are used for test runs by terrorists in terms of bringing items through security. They might place an item that looks like a gun in some luggage or use a device that looks like a child's toy just to test the tolerance of the security equipment. They also carry out test runs to see what extent 'random checks' really are randomised."

These tests involve items and behaviours that are unusual but not illegal. These particular tests are not to get items in or out of the country, more so to see what can get by security. 

"Irish authorities have a gap when it comes to experience in dealing with terror, however", says MacIntyre. "This may surprise some people, given Ireland's recent history and experience with IRA bombings, but that was 22 years ago now. A lot of those officers are no longer in the force. Ireland is out of practice in responding to this sort of threat."

Counter-Terrorism 

An Garda Siochana established the Counter-Terrorism International unit back in 2014. This is attached to the Special Detective Unit. The purpose of this unit is to identify and monitor international suspects and groups within the jurisdiction. 

It was reported recently that civil defence fire-tenders are being used to seal off streets when large crowds gather in Ireland. This counter-terrorism measure was approved by senior Gardai earlier this fear, following trial runs at a number of major social events. 

It is thought that counter-terrorism plans have been in the works since the Paris attacks of 2015. 

Speaking to George Hook on today's High Noon, security analyst Tom Clonan said, "Irish citizens have been caught up in every attack and in terms of Islamic State, this is the land of the unbeliever. They don't draw a distinction between Ireland and England or the United States."

"If the attack had happened at the Point Depot on Saturday night when Ariana Grande had performed, the death toll would have been much higher", said Clonan. "Our emergency departments are not fit to deal with a mass casualty incident, whether it be man-made or terrorist."

Clonan said he welcomed the Taoiseach's move to host the meeting this morning with the various agencies. He praised the Greater Manchester Police's response to the attack on Monday night. Clonan said that An Garda Siochana need to train for such an incident. 

"I have been in the defence, security and terrorism space since 1989. A lot of my time is considering and dealing with sources and so on. This time last year, I would have said a terror attack in Ireland was in theory possible but highly unlikely. After the Stockholm attack, however, that is a wake-up call to us. It is a distinct possibility that Ireland could be attacked. We must plan for that."