Gardaí fear Russian interest in Ireland increasing due to US tech giants
Source: concerns based on embassy expansion plans, not specific events
The Russian embassy, Orwell Road. The expansion looks set to bring about a Russian presence here, attached to the embassy, disproportionate to the international significance of Ireland. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
Many in the Garda suspect a strategic decision has been taken to expand Russia’s presence here specifically to monitor the international tech companies located in the Republic.
But sources said it was the expansion plans, rather than any firm evidence of increased illicit activities by the Russians, that lead to concerns about the Russian presence in Dublin.
The expansion looks set to bring about a Russian presence here, attached to the embassy, that is disproportionate to the size, or international significance, of a country such as Ireland.
Britain has expelled 23 Russians in the wake of the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury.
Speaking in Brussels, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pointed out the British had expelled people who claimed to be diplomats but were believed to be spies. He said a security assessment would be carried out into Russians who were in Ireland claiming to be diplomats.
That security assessment, by the Garda’s Crime and Intelligence members and the Defence Forces, may identify activities outside those expected of diplomats. However, informed sources said no such information has been presented to Government in recent times.
“The concern in the [Garda] is around the Russian embassy; why they feel the need to get bigger here at this time. There is no clear explanation from them for that,” said one informed source.
Garda officers believe the Russian assessment of Ireland may have shifted to a longer-term view that ranks the Republic as now being more strategically important than previously because of the concentration of the international tech sector here.
Those concerns have heightened in recent weeks with the events in Salisbury. Heightening the concern further has been the ongoing controversy around Cambridge Analytica using data from Google, Twitter and Facebook to, it claimed, influence the US presidential election in favour of Donald Trump.
It has been claimed Russian interests also used the company’s techniques.
Garda sources said those recent developments, and the fact many of the social media companies used are in Ireland, will form part of the security assessment about the Russians for the Government.