State watches about 24 Islamic suspects

 

The National Taskforce on Emergency Planning has been told that there are in the region of 24 suspected Islamic activists under constant surveillance in the State in relation to suspected terrorist activities.

Garda and Army intelligence experts have also launched an investigation to establish whether there had been any contact between Irish-based activists and those in the UK suspected of involvement in last week's bombings in London.

It comes as the Government yesterday approved a research project for the publication of a booklet advising people what to do in the event of specific national emergencies, to be distributed to every household in the country next year.

There have also been increased security measures at major Irish airports and bus and train stations in the week following the London attack, including greater Garda presence and surveillance.

The Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, said a meeting yesterday of the Government's National Taskforce on Emergency Planning had been informed by Garda and Army intelligence experts that the risk of an Islamic terrorist attack on Ireland was still considered low.

"There are some fears among the security forces naturally that there might be people living here who could possibly be using Ireland as a base from which to attack countries on the European mainland, particularly the United Kingdom because of our proximity," he said.

He had confidence that the number of Islamic terror suspects operating in Ireland was a "tiny, tiny minority" of the 25,000-strong Muslim population, and that the security forces had "a fair deal of knowledge" about them. "It's small enough for the security services to keep them under surveillance."

Yesterday was the first meeting of the taskforce, chaired by Mr O'Dea, which includes representatives from various Government departments, health services, Army and Garda.

Mr O'Dea rejected criticisms that Irish authorities did not have the capacity to deal with a major emergency or terrorist attack.

He confirmed that security had been stepped up at Dublin and Shannon airports, and confirmed that new measures were in place at the latter, following a security breach by inspectors in May.

The Irish Times understands intelligence officers have not found any evidence that would link any suspected operatives in Ireland to the London bomb suspects, but a detailed trawl of telephone and other records has begun to confirm this.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet yesterday approved the first stage in the production of a booklet for every home in the country on what to do in the event of various types of emergency.

Mr O'Dea obtained approval to carry out research to identify the concerns and questions of the general public regarding potential emergencies, such as a nuclear accident at Sellafield, or a major terrorist attack.