Real risk of jihadist terror attack in Ireland difficult to determine

Gardaí say while chances are low, any incident would likely come without warning

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald was  dismissive of media reports suggesting jihadist training camps had been held in the Republic. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald was dismissive of media reports suggesting jihadist training camps had been held in the Republic. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald was this week dismissive of media reports suggesting jihadist training camps had been held in the Republic. “There is no truth in relation to that,” she said. “And there is no information that would suggest any specific threat at present,” she added of any risk of a Paris-style terror attack here.

However, senior gardaí and others in the security community who spoke to The Irish Times said, while Ireland had no known reason for being on high alert, they were worried any incident would be of the “no warning” variety.

“Obviously people have said the fact we allowed the Americans use Shannon for troops to pass through on the way to Iraq and Afghanistan makes us a threat,” said one senior garda,

“But I don’t think anyone would suggest you just increase security at Shannon, the US embassy, the Dáil and maybe a few other obvious sites and that’s the job done. The world is getting more complex.”

Another officer agreed: “If you look at the events in Paris – okay, the killing of the cartoonists was maybe an obvious target for them. But then others were ordinary people killed in a Jewish supermarket and there seems to be an acceptance now that possibly Jewish schools were a target.”

Caution

Up to 30 radicalised young Muslims are believed to have travelled from Ireland to fight in conflict zones in recent years, four of whom were killed. Hisham Habbash (29), who was from Libya but grew up in Ireland, was killed fighting in Syria in June 2013.

In late April, 2013, Jordanian-born Alaa Ciymeh (26), who grew up in Dublin, was killed in Syria. In February of that year Libyan-born Shamseddin Gaidan (16) from Navan was killed after he went to Syria without his parents’ permission.

Egyptian-born Hudhaifa ElSayed (22), from Drogheda, was shot dead by regime forces in Syria in December 2012.

One security source, with experience of working to combat international terrorism, said those returning to Ireland after fighting in Syria or Iraq were the biggest risk.

He said they had been exposed to such extreme violence, up to and including war crimes, it had become normalised for them. “They’re coming back and the conflict they were involved in is continuing and the reason they had to fight remains. There is a danger that they want to take the fight to ‘the West’. And if somebody snaps, they just might do that in Ireland.”