Ireland ‘not immune’ from lone-wolf terror, says Minister

Charlie Flanagan says no evidence of direct threat, but need for vigilance remains

Charlie Flanagan has held security briefings with senior members of the Garda in recent days to assess Ireland’s security situation and our preparation in light of an attack. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Charlie Flanagan has held security briefings with senior members of the Garda in recent days to assess Ireland’s security situation and our preparation in light of an attack. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said Ireland is not immune from a lone wolf terrorist attack.

Mr Flanagan expressed his sympathies to the people of Barcelona in light of the terrorist attack, which killed 13 people last week.

The Minister said the incident particularly resonated with Irish people because of their close relationship with the city.

Mr Flanagan has held security briefings with senior members of the Garda in recent days to assess Ireland’s security situation and our preparation in light of an attack.

“While there is no evidence of any direct threat to Ireland, we cannot be complacent. We do not have an exemption, we do not have immunity and we should, at all times, be vigilant,” the Minister told The Irish Times.

“It is very challenging to pre-empt what a lone wolf might do in terms of using ordinary, every day items as an instrument of terror – be that a commerical van or a kitchen knife or whatever.”

Garda sources said while any terror attack in Europe was monitored closely, terrorism in another jurisdiction did not have an immediate effect on the Republic. Instead, the Garda was sharing information and working very closely with foreign police forces.

Informed sources said the intelligence available within the Republic and from other police forces did not point to any Islamist extremist terror cell here.

Logistic support

However, there was a group of between 20 and 30 suspects being monitored on suspicion of providing logistic support from Ireland to terrorists abroad. And others among that group of suspects had fought with Isis abroad and were regarded as a risk.

Senior Garda officers said while the security climate in the Republic from terrorists – excluding dissident republicans – was benign, it did not insulate Ireland against attack.

They pointed to so-called lone wolf attacks abroad, in which radicalised extremists acting alone carried out low-cost strikes, as the most likely risk to the Republic.

The Garda sources said the force was committed to monitoring suspects in the Republic but admitted all countries were vulnerable to lone-wolf attacks involving knives or vehicles being used as weapons.

Minister for Health Simon Harris also insisted Ireland was doing everything it could to prepare for a potential attack.

Mr Harris said the Barcelona attack was “heidous and heinous” and the Government was determined to prevent any such incident here.

He also urged all citizens travelling abroad to be vigilant.