Army might be used to guard Irish embassies

 

The Government may consider sending Army or Garda personnel to protect certain embassies abroad following the failed armed robbery at the Irish Ambassador's residence in Nigeria two weeks ago.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrews, has ordered a security review at the embassy in Lagos following the armed robbery attempt in the presence of the ambassador, Mr Joe Lynch, in which nine shots were fired.

The incident happened on Saturday, July 17th, when the ambassador returned to the residence after an outing with his wife, Irene. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said yesterday the ambassador's armed escort fired shots when the armed gang attempted a hold-up. The gang also discharged some shots before running away.

"It was all over in 30 seconds. Nobody was hurt," the spokesman said.

Mr Andrews said yesterday that security on the perimeter of the embassy, which is provided by an elite Nigerian police unit, has been upgraded since the incident, as has security within the embassy compound. He recalled there was also an incident involving staff at the Irish Embassy in Beijing earlier this year when they had to be relocated to hotels when violence broke out.

Military sources said last night there are trained Army personnel who could provide security for Irish diplomats in foreign "hot spots". "We are mystified that they are not being used abroad. We have Army Rangers trained specifically in this area. Most other embassies around the world provide their own security."

However, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the security review in Lagos is looking at whether the security in place is adequate. "Further measures will be considered if need be. In the short term there are no plans to send Irish security personnel abroad."

But a source said last night this is one option that will be looked at by the Minister in the coming months.

Yesterday Mr Andrews paid tribute to Irish diplomats abroad who on occasion have to serve in posts where personal security is difficult. "Our diplomatic staff have never flinched from such situations and I would like to pay tribute to them for this. I have visited Irish embassies in my political career and I can say that regardless of where they are posted and what conditions they endure, Irish diplomats perform their role with immense professionalism."