Terror attack in Ireland possible, but unlikely, says Tánaiste

Government and security agencies discuss threats following Manchester bombing

Soldiers are seen outside Buckingham Palace in London as military personnel are deployed around the country after the UK’s terror status was elevated to critical. The Manchester attack has prompted the Taoiseach to hold a meeting of security agencies. Photograph: Getty

Soldiers are seen outside Buckingham Palace in London as military personnel are deployed around the country after the UK’s terror status was elevated to critical. The Manchester attack has prompted the Taoiseach to hold a meeting of security agencies. Photograph: Getty

 

A terror attack in Ireland is possible, but unlikely, according to Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald.

Government departments and security agencies met on Thursday to discuss possible terror threats to the State.

The meeting, which was announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil on Wednesday, began in Government Buildings at 7.30am and officials from across the defence, justice, transport and health sectors were in attendance.

The measure was taken following this week’s bomb attack in Manchester in which 22 people died.

Following the meeting, Ms Fitzgerald issued a statement which said although there is a threat in Ireland, an attack is unlikely.

“The meeting was briefed on the threat assessment by the security authorities, who indicated that they remain in daily contact with their counterparts in the UK, the EU and beyond,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

“It was noted that while a terrorist attack here is possible it is unlikely and there is no specific information in relation to any threat to Ireland from international terrorism. The meeting was told that this assessment will remain under continuous review.”

Ministers were briefed on the emergency arrangements and how they would operate in the event of an attack. Regular “scenario exercises” continue to be held among the various agencies involved in emergency planning, “with the lessons learned shared among the bodies in question”.

Detailed preparations are in place to deal with any potential attack, according to the Tánaiste. “Of its nature, much of this work cannot be disclosed publicly, but people can be assured that it goes on relentlessly,” the statement said.

Ms Fitzgerald said of equal importance is ongoing work to “ensure that people do not become alienated from our society and radicalised. Terrorism is caused not by particular religions or peoples, it is caused by hatred, and terrorists alone are responsible for their evil acts.”

She said the aim of international terrorism, as well as causing death and destruction, is to “change our way of life, through creating fear”, adding: “We cannot allow this to happen.”

Thursday’s meeting has been likened to Cobra briefings in the UK, which involve high-level intelligence figures and cabinet members, although Ireland does not have a fixed protocol for calling such meetings to assess security threats to the State.

Speaking on Wednesday, the Taoiseach said there was always the threat of danger at concerts and major sporting occasions, “no matter where you put the perimeter of security”.

On Thursday, the Tánaiste said gardaí are “working closely with event organisers to ensure that appropriate safety and security measures are in place at forthcoming events in the summer period”.

“The gardaí are asking the public to remain vigilant and to immediately report any issue which gives rise to concern.”

Mr Kenny had also stressed the importance of the Government being able to give assurances to members of the public that everything possible was being done to prevent any similar attacks occurring in Ireland.

“We can’t proceed on the basis that everything is calm and rosy, that nothing could happen here while the levels of security are moderate.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin criticised the lack of a dedicated intelligence agency in Ireland to deal with such matters. Mr Kenny responded that there will need to be reflection on the issue in future.