US embassy’s security plan sparks row

The US government wants to erect a new defence perimeter at its Dublin embassy — including a barrier almost 3m high and an outer cordon of 1m-high steel bollards — to protect staff from any likely terrorist attack.

However, Dublin City Council has told the embassy the railing proposed in its planning application was too high and would have to be lowered. The refusal has resulted in an appeal to Bord Pleanála.

The appeal, drafted by the US Department of State and embassy officials, cites the Boston bombing in its case for increased security to stop terrorists getting near the iconic Ballsbridge building.

The US government told the State’s planning appeals body that not allowing the embassy to erect the proposed railing “makes the embassy in Dublin more vulnerable”.

It said al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups continue to plan attacks on US interests, including in Europe.

In its planning application to Dublin City Council, the embassy wanted to:

* Replace the existing Victorian-style perimeter railing (1.8m high) with a modern railing (2.89m high) on top of the existing low wall;

* A new cordon of steel bollards (each 1m high) on the path in front of, and adjacent to, the main entrance;

* New gates and pedestrian entrances, as well as a new guard booth.

The council granted permission, subject to conditions, mainly that the boundary railing be reduced in height by 45cm-50cm, citing its impact on the nearby residential area.

The US government lodged an appeal against that specific condition to Bord Pleanála earlier this month.

The US Department of State said the new railings would “improve the safety and security of US government employees”.

It said: “The US and world witnessed the tragedy in Boston and saw firsthand what damage an individual can do. We would be well advised to make sure that it is difficult for intruders to enter the USG grounds.”

It detailed at least 14 European countries which had allowed them build similar facilities at US embassies.

In its submission, the embassy said: “The US government remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against its citizens and interests overseas.

“Current information suggests that al-Qaeda, its affiliated organisations, and other terrorist organisations continue to plan terrorist attacks against US interests in multiple regions.”

It said there was a threat from unaffiliated persons who, although inspired by terrorist organisations, operated on an individual basis. It said railings of at least 2.75m were required to deter people from trying to climb them.

An Taisce and two local residents associations objected to the railing.

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