Ireland must recreate security capacity it had during Troubles, Dáil told

Kenny questioned about National Security Committee in wake of Manchester attack

Ireland needs to recreate the security and intelligence capacity it had during the Troubles to deal with the current threat posed by Islamist terrorism, the Dáil has heard.

State security was raised as Taoiseach Enda Kenny was questioned about the role of the National Security Committee in the wake of last week's Manchester bomb attack.

Opposition leaders raised concerns about the secrecy surrounding the committee, the mechanisms for oversight, and if anyone was politically responsible for it.

Mr Kenny said a terrorist attack in the Republic was unlikely, and there was “no specific information on any threat to Ireland from international terrorism”.


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Ireland was a “soft target” and “in the past owing to what happened in Northern Ireland because of the IRA’s campaign, we had much stronger security capacity. Since the peace process we lost a lot of corporate intelligence.”

Mr Martin said “we really need to recreate that in the context of the Isis threat”.

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace claimed the security committee "answers to nobody but itself", while the equivalent UK body reported directly to Westminster's intelligence and security committee.

Proper accountability

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said there was an understandable need for confidentiality, but "it must be balanced with a proper accountability mechanism".

He asked if the committee shared or authorised the sharing of intelligence information with other governments. “Is there anybody politically responsible for clearing it?”

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said there had to be "democratic exchange" about security issues as he asked what efforts were made to monitor people moving back to Ireland from conflict zones. He recalled that there was always a budget "Secret Service" vote, and it was always for a token sum of €1 million.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan asked how Ireland would co-operate on security with the UK in the "post-Brexit era if we are to have a Common Travel Area".

Mr Kenny said the committee was chaired by the secretary general to the Government, and included representatives at the highest level of the Departments of Justice, Defence and Foreign Affairs, and An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces. The Government was informed of high-level security issues but not operational security matters.

He said “we have to share information with our UK colleagues who might see potential terrorists coming through Britain”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times