Government Security Committee to meet for first time

Leo Varadkar pledged to establish the COBRA style committee before he was confirmed as Taoiseach

Government Security Committee to meet for first time

File photo: Members of the Irish Defences Forces with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the National Day of Commemoration, 09-07-2017. Image: Bryan Meade/RollingNews

The government’s new committee on national security is set to meet for the first time next week.

The Taoiseach pledged to establish a Government Security Committee – modelled on the UK’s COBRA committee – following the 3rd June terror attack in London.

In the UK, the special cross-departmental meetings are called in response to national emergencies and are aimed at coordinating the central government’s response to crisis situations.

Depending on the nature of the emergency, senior government ministers and civil servants can be joined by military personnel, security and intelligence officials and representatives from the emergency services.

Operation Sciath

Leo Varadkar announced the first meeting of the new committee following a garda terrorist training exercise in Dublin’s docklands this morning.

“Before I was elected Taoiseach, I said it was my intention to establish a new Government Security Committee to allow greater Ministerial involvement in preparing for and managing major security threats, and to allow more extensive cross-Departmental cooperation on these issues,” he said.

“I intend to hold the first meeting of that Committee next week, when we will have an initial reflection on all of these issues and review the lessons learned from today's exercise.”

This morning’s garda training ‘Operation Sciath’ involved a hostage situation as well as several simulated stabbings.

Local gardaí were joined by armed officers, with fire and ambulance services observing.

Security forces have been planning for the operation since April – with further exercises due to take place later in the year.

Ten new armed support units are also to be established in towns and cities outside Dublin by the end of the year.

National security

“Protecting our citizens is of paramount importance to the Government,” said Mr Varadkar.

“This involves a significant amount of ongoing work by the Gardaí, the Defence Forces and other State agencies.”

“Today’s security exercise is part of the ongoing work by these State agencies to practice, develop and assess our capacity to prevent or respond to incidents.”

He said the principle focus remains on security within Ireland but added that there is also ongoing collaboration with international agencies, “behind the scenes.”

“As well as testing our response capacity, it is even more important that we do all we can to prevent attacks,” he said.

“We do this through our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, through international co-operation, through our foreign policy and peacekeeping work, and also through important domestic measures such as promoting integration, education, tolerance and respect here at home.”

He emphasised that there has been no change to threat level in Ireland – which remains at ‘Moderate.’