Coveney plays down threat of Paris-type attacks in Ireland

Greater intelligence-sharing among EU member states necessary, says Minister

Flowers are left at a memorial near the Bataclan concert hall, Paris,  November 15th, 2015. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Flowers are left at a memorial near the Bataclan concert hall, Paris, November 15th, 2015. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

 

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has played down the risk of a Paris-type attack taking place in Ireland but said there is a greater need for intelligence-sharing among member states of the European Union to prevent any repeat of what happened in the French capital.

Mr Coveney said Ireland’s national security committee met on Saturday in the wake of the Paris attack to assess the threat to Ireland, concluding the risk had not changed and remained low.

‘Very unlikely’

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time special edition, Mr Coveney said the series of co-ordinated attacks in Paris which left 129 people dead and over 350 people injured, including some 99 people who are critical, was “shocking”, but such a series of attacks in Ireland was “very unlikely”.

“Our national security committee met today and the threat assessment for Ireland hasn’t changed in terms of the intelligence we have, so while of course a terrorist attack is always possible, the assessment would say the threat is very low at the moment,” said Mr Coveney.

“The national security committee meeting involved the Garda Commissioner, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, the secretaries-general of the Department of Defence, Foreign affairs and Justice and of course of the Taoiseach’s office, which called the meeting.

“So these issues are being assessed and being looked at seriously, but it’s important to reassure people that all of the intelligence information that we have available to us says that the threat is low in Ireland.”

Necessary intelligence infrastructure

Mr Coveney said the key issue for Ireland, as for all European Union states, was intelligence-gathering, so that similar-type terrorist attacks can be predicted and prevented. He was confident Ireland had the necessary intelligence infrastructure through An Garda Síochána.

“We do have an intelligence-gathering infrastructure, both in the Defence Forces and in An Garda Síochána and that information is shared, and of course we have an obligation as a State to make sure we protect our citizens by actually trying to predict and anticipate problems before they happen.

“As a government we have to constantly reassess, look at internationally what is best practice and assess when we meet those standards, but I think certainly what we seen last night will undoubtedly sharpen the focus of everybody.”

Mr Coveney pointed out that Ireland has the necessary expertise to respond to such a threat through armed units of An Garda Síochána as well as the specialist Army Ranger unit in the Defence Forces, who train both domestically and internationally to ensure their skill set is up to date.

Big lesson

“One thing we need to do more effectively than we have been doing in the past is we need to share intelligence information across the European Union as a whole - and I think this is one of the big lessons from this.

“I am actually going to a defence ministers’ European council meeting on Tuesday, and I think we are going to have very frank conversation there,” said Mr Coveney in a Prime Time debate with Irish Times security analyst Dr Tom Clonan and senior US defence adviser Lawrence Korb.