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'You never know who would be after us': Security beefed up at Leinster House amid fear of threats

The Taoiseach has criticised security at Leinster House for being far less stringent as other national parliaments.

Leinster House, Dublin.
Leinster House, Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal

SECURITY AT LEINSTER House was beefed up this week ahead of the Dáil returning next week.

Visitors to the Dáil and Seanad must now go through airport-style screening, and must have photo ID such as a passport or driving licence with them.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is on the record as saying that security at the Dáil is far less stringent than other national parliaments.

Following the attack at Westminster in March where MPs were forced into lockdown at the House of Commons, as Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on the pavement injuring more than 50 people, four fatally, Varadkar said everyone must be “cognisant” of what happened in London.

It is without a doubt that security going into Government Buildings and going into our parliament is much less than it would be visiting almost any other parliament that I have ever visited.
We have to be wise to the possibility that somebody could carry out an act of violence in our parliament – it might not necessarily be an armed terrorist – it could be anyone.
Of course there are hundreds of staff that work in the building also, so any reviews of security, taking into account what has happened in Westminster, would be very welcome.

There have been security breaches at Leinster House in the past. In 2014, a teenager used his great-grandfather’s sword from the 1916 Rising to stage a “one man rebellion” at Leinster House, according to The Irish Times.

He was later sentenced to 200 hours’ community service. In 2015, increased security measures were also introduced, with a scanning system installed, after a visitor to the House threatened a TD in the corridor.

However, with the heightened threat of terrorism in Europe, more robust measures came into effect this week.

It’s understood a security review of the premises was carried out, resulting in all visitors now having to walk through a metal detector and we will pass bags through an X-ray.

shutterstock_574782955 Source: Shutterstock/Rugged Studio

All visitors (other than those that hold a passcard) will have to bring photo ID, such as a passport or driving licence. Visitors must arrive at the Kildare Street gate 15 minutes before their appointment or tour, and people are asked to avoid bringing large bags.

“We hope not to inconvenience our visitors while we adjust to the new measures, and you can help by arriving in good time and leaving bulky bags at home,” it states on the website.

The security measures were approved by the Business Committee after a presentation on the new measures by the Captain of the Guard.

“I approved the measures,” Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath, also a member of the Business Committee, told TheJournal.ie.

“We can’t keep sticking our head in the sand, we have to brush up on security here. You never know what type of person might walk in and do something. It’s long overdue,” he said.

In recent weeks, threats against TDs sitting on the Committee on the Eighth Amendment have been highlighted in the media. With a contentious referendum on the issue due next year, McGrath (who sits on the committee and who is on the record as a pro-life TD) said some may well have concerns about their security as tensions rise.

“We have to be careful. You never know who would be after us,” he said.

Solidarity-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger, who also sits on the committee, said she has received threats against her,  but is at pains to add that some reports have been exaggerated.

She doesn’t believe threats will become more prevalent, but said people need to remain vigilant.

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