Irish intelligence techniques inadequate against attack, says expert

UK security expert points to the absence of a communications interception programme

Prof Anthony Glees: “The UK has a massive programme of interception when it comes to electronic communications”. Photograph: Youtube

Prof Anthony Glees: “The UK has a massive programme of interception when it comes to electronic communications”. Photograph: Youtube

 
The Republic does not possess the tools to adequately defend itself from a terrorist attack as it does not employ the same intelligence techniques as the UK, according to a security expert.

Prof Anthony Glees, director of the University of Buckingham’s Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, said the absence of an office such as the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is the centre of Britain’s intelligence activities, would hinder efforts to prevent an attack in Ireland.

“The UK has a massive programme of interception when it comes to electronic communications, which is what we do at GCHQ,” he said. “Ireland has no such programme and does not have the resources the UK puts into GCHQ.

“The only way of disrupting the sort of plots we’ve seen in Brussels is through intelligence, and that intelligence is chiefly going to be the intelligence of intercepted communications. Then it must be shared properly at the EU Intelligence and Situation Centre (IntCen).

“Ireland doesn’t have this enormous intelligence resource. You have to rely on what the British government will give you and what you get through the IntCen in Brussels.”

National security in the Republic is handled by the Garda, while the Defence Forces are responsible for intelligence. Prof Glees also said the relationship between the two was “not strong”.

“It is not as intimate as is now the relationship between MI5 and Britain’s counter-terrorism police,” he said.

Armed gardaí

“You are also at risk if you are seen as, on the one hand presenting people with a trophy target, and, on the other, you don’t have the kind of tight security and intelligence nexus we have in the UK.

“National security is a matter for nation states, but we are in this together, and we have to act together. There is an historical obstacle there between Britain and Ireland, but that has got to be overcome.”

The remarks come as gardaí are to take up an overt armed presence at Dublin Airport and Dublin Port for the first time in the face of growing concern about the threat posed by international terrorist groups.

Dr Maura Conway, a senior lecturer in international security at Dublin City University, said it was “doubtless a good idea” to have a visible presence at Dublin Airport. “It makes people feel more secure, especially at times like these in the immediate aftermath of attacks in Europe,” she said.

In terms of the State’s level of preparedness for a potential attack, Dr Conway said the relationship between Britain and the Republic would be important.

“You can never say there won’t be an attack,” she said. “There is always a chance that could happen. The authorities have pretty good relations with the British authorities, and also with Europol and other EU agencies that are working on this threat.

“Intelligence sharing in Europe could be improved, but Ireland and the UK for example have good ties. ”