Terrorist attack in Ireland ‘possible but unlikely,’ says Coveney

Spanish ambassador urges Irish people to continue to visit Barcelona

Simon Coveney has said the threat of an attack in Ireland similar to the atrocity in Barcelona remains possible but unlikely. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Simon Coveney has said the threat of an attack in Ireland similar to the atrocity in Barcelona remains possible but unlikely. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The threat of an attack in Ireland similar to the atrocity in Barcelona remains possible but unlikely, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

“I think we’re better prepared than we’ve ever been.

“Of course we need to be vigilant - I think it’s important to say that though, that the risk assessment in Ireland hasn’t changed and hasn’t changed today.”

Mr Coveney said “there’s a possibility of an attack like this, but it’s not likely”.

Before his appointment as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had proposed the establishment of a new Cabinet sub-committee on national security similar to Downing’s street Cobra committee, the high level strategy group which is convened and chaired by the prime minister to deal with terrorism incidents

In the wake of the Manchester bombing in which 22 people died, a security meeting chaired by then taoiseach Enda Kenny was held with Ministers and senior officials from the Departments of Defence, Justice, Transport and Health.

Security authorities briefed the meeting and pointed out that they were in daily contact with counterparts in the UK, the EU and beyond.

As part of the State’s security and policing structure the Garda Commissioner reports to the Minister for Justice.

Previously there was a dedicated Cabinet role of Minister for Defence. In recent years however it has been subsumed, previously with Justice and currently by the Taoiseach into his own responsibilities.

Mr Coveney said on Newstalk Breakfast that the Spanish security forces seem to have responded very quickly.

A mad man

“But of course when you have a mad man willing to drive a van into a crowded street, it is very difficult to prepare and to respond to that.

“But they’re the new realities unfortunately that we live with in the European Union”.

Mr Coveney said he was on holidays in Spain with his family last week.

“Today really is about solidarity, it’s about condolences with Spanish people and with Spain as a country”, the Minister said.

“And I think the response has to be to ensure that this type of cowardly, horrible terrorism doesn’t change our way of life - and that we continue to travel and move around Europe in the way that we always have.”

But people should be vigilant.

“So our advice to people is of course you should continue to travel and to move ahead with your holiday plans - but be vigilant and be careful”.

Spain’s ambassador to Ireland José Maria Rodriguez-Coso, who is from Barcelona, said the city would fight to remain the way it was and would not be deterred by terrorists.

He described Barcelona as open and tolerant and urged Irish people to continue to visit.

“We are all together in this boat trying to get out of the storm,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

He also thanked President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Coveney for their expressions of condolence.

‘A street for the planet’

The ambassador said that unfortunately for the people of Barcelona terrorism was not a new experience, but they would resist and keep on their way of living.

“Everybody has to come back to Las Ramblas. It is a street for the planet.”

Mr Rodriguez-Coso said that police and security services had thwarted many other attempted attacks over the past year and would continue to do so.

The prompt police response in Cambrils was an indication of the high level of coordination, he said.

In light of this latest atrocity if the Taoiseach establishes his Cobra-style committee it will have to look at the capacity of the Garda and military intelligence to respond proactively to threats, especially in relation to deterrence and prevention.

The Government has repeatedly said that all necessary resources would be provided but questions will be asked about whether the force has the required specialist expertise and necessary resources.

Emphasis is also likely to be placed on Garda connections to the new communities in the State and the linguistic capacity of members of the force to deal with such disparate communities.

With austerity, funding for community policing had been cut drastically but has begun to recover and An Garda Síochána is expected to commit many of its newly recruited gardaí into community work along with more experienced members of the force.

Focus is also likely to zoom in on the dependence of both gardaí and military services on intelligence gathering by foreign agencies.