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Could Ireland be the next European target for a jihadist terror attack?

An expert with decades of intelligence experience says our neutrality might actually be making us more vulnerable.

A SECURITY EXPERT, who worked in the Irish Defence Forces intelligence section for decades, has said he does not believe this country is properly protecting itself from potential terror attacks.

Following the deaths of 17 people in high profile attacks in Paris and more recently two terrorist incidents in Denmark resulting in the deaths of two people, there are concerns all across Europe about who might be next. Ireland was “on alert” after the Paris attacks, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, though he said the terror threat to Ireland is low.

Michael Murphy, who served the majority of his 40 years in the Irish Defence Forces in intelligence, told this week that he has serious concerns about this country’s current management of intelligence.

As far as he is concerned, Ireland could be as much under threat as any other European country and what’s more, we are significantly more vulnerable than most of these other countries.

National security in Ireland is handled by gardaí, with the Defence Forces responsible for national intelligence. However Ireland’s neutrality means we do not have the same military and defence capabilities as most other countries.

Attack anywhere

“If you put yourself in the mind of the other people, they have said attack anywhere. It’s not because people are in Shannon or because we have American companies. Wherever you can hit the infidel, hit them, by whatever means you  can hit them.”

Are we more likely than any place else? You can’t say. But the only way you would is if you have a good intelligence service.

Murphy believes there are “a lot of weaknesses in our system” and that it has not changed much since The Troubles, despite the modern challenges we face.

Now, there are three new threats to the State:

  • Islamic jihadists
  • Cyber threats
  • Espionage because of our research and development and foreign investment.

The intelligence expert argues that Ireland needs one agency to deal with these three threat alone, rather than having to handle all the other criminal threats and investigations in the country like gardaí do now.

‘No evidence of radicalisation’

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has denied claims that Irish anti-terror laws and policing are not up to scratch and that this would make the country a transit hub for terrorists. She also said that there was no evidence of jihadist training groups in Irish mountains, in reaction to a report in the Irish Independent.

However Murphy said there are clear indications, despite comments to the contrary, of some radicalisation. Last year it was revealed that 25 to 30 people had left Ireland to join jihadist fighting in Syria.


“How did they get out of this country if we’ve got our finger on the pulse?” Murphy asked. “If we know what’s going on with the community and if they’re cooperating, then how did these 30 guys get out?”

The “most frightening threat” according to him, is that our weaknesses could result in an attack elsewhere.

There’s a plane after taking off from New York, or Mexico  coming to Europe and somewhere over Shannon it’s hijacked and it’s now heading for Sellafield. We’re a neutral state. Who’s protecting Dublin? The RAF. We can’t do it. We don’t like spending money on defence and security.

So, what would put us in a strong position? Murphy argues that our main problem is that “the dots in this country are not all joined”. Gardaí and the Defence Forces share the task and our national security committee does not include all government departments.

The former Lieutenant Colonel believes Ireland needs a dedicated intelligence agency to ensure we keep an eye on potential terrorists and at least have a chance to quash attempts to kill people in this country or outside of it.

“If there is an attack, there’ll be an enquiry after and it will bring in intelligence experts and they will say all of this but nobody will be held responsible – that’s not a good way to secure the people of this state. I’m saying let’s do it now instead.”

Read: ‘A number of young Irish people have left Ireland to fight alongside ISIS’>

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