Irish terror laws to counter jihadist threat

Sweeping anti-terror laws will be before the Dáil in weeks after ministers said the country is on "alert" for Paris-style jihadist attacks.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said new “zero-tolerance” legislation was needed to counter the threat after terrorists murdered 17 people in Paris.

“We are on alert. Legislation has been prepared by the Department of Justice for early processing through the Dáil,” Mr Flanagan said.

He said gardaí were “on top” of the situation regarding radicalised Irish people recruited to jihadist groups.

“I’m aware of reports that there has been some involvement on the part of Irish citizens,” he said.

Mr Flanagan praised community leaders in Ireland for moving to stop radicalisation and preventing people being “attracted by the glamour of terrorist activity”.

Inciting, recruiting, and training people for terrorism are set to become offences under legislation due before the Dáil next month.

The move follows a warning by David Stanton, chairman of the Oireachtas Justice Committee, that there is a fear that people may return to Ireland radicalised after fighting in Syria and Iraq and “do something like what occurred in France”.

Mr Stanton, a Fine Gael TD, said previous briefings with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald estimated that the number of people based in Ireland who had gone to fight in Middle Eastern war zones numbered in the “mid-20s”.

Garda sources have told the Irish Examiner that they know about these people but that there could well be others. They also said that many people who went to Syria did so for medical or humanitarian reasons and are not considered jihadists.

Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan told the Irish Examiner at the weekend they were concerned at foreign fighters and “lone wolves” — radicalised individuals who carry out attacks without direction from foreign terror networks.

She said it was “almost impossible” to observe suspects 24 hours a day and that gardaí had to monitor for any “indications” of radicalisation by working with the Muslim community and sharing intelligence with foreign agencies.

With much of Europe on high alert of further terrorist attacks, the new laws about to be introduced here will make three further terrorist offences punishable by sentences of up to 10 years.

The Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2014 will create the following crimes:

nPublic provocation to commit a terrorist offence — relating to distributing a message to the public with the intention of “encouraging, directly or indirectly”, the commission of a terrorist offence;

nRecruitment for terrorism — relating to people who recruit, or attempt to recruit, another person to engage in terrorist activity;

nTraining for terrorism — relating to people who instruct others in how to make or use firearms, explosives, or noxious gases for terrorist activity.

Mr Stanton said the bill — stemming from a 2008 EU Directive — had completed its stage in the Seanad, adding: “It’s obviously a very serious matter, when you see one or two people wreak havoc in Paris. I am also alarmed at reports from people being interviewed mentioning Ireland being a legitimate target.”

He was referring to extremist Anjem Choudary, who told RTE’s Prime Time that Ireland was a legitimate target because of America’s use of Shannon Airport.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was due to meet the Garda Commissioner today to discuss the security situation and will brief the Cabinet tomorrow.

After meeting EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini in Dublin yesterday, Mr Flanagan said: “One lesson from the horrific events in Paris last week is the need for our respective peoples to remain vigilant, to remain on alert and to continue to upgrade our efforts to tackle terrorism and the scourge of terror in our midst.”

Ms Mogherini said Paris represented a “wake-up call for Europe”, adding that intelligence-sharing by EU nations could improve.

Meanwhile, hackers claiming to be working on behalf of Islamic State militants briefly seized control of the Twitter and YouTube sites of the military’s US Central Command.

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