‘Essential’ that State boosts Garda anti-terror staffing

Jim O’Callaghan

It is “absolutely essential” that staffing at a specialist Garda unit tasked with assessing intelligence on the financing of terrorism is increased, Fianna Fáil has said.

The party’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, was responding to an article in the Irish Examiner which revealed that only two gardaí were attached to the Terrorist Financing Intelligence Unit.

Security expert Edward Burke said that while An Garda Síochána was still dealing with the “legacy of serious cuts”, improvements in intelligence services were “not moving fast enough”.

The Terrorist Financing Intelligence Unit is part of the Financial Intelligence Unit, which is staffed by 11 gardaí and sits within the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau. The staffing levels are unchanged despite repeated calls from an external inspection body for the resources of both units to be increased.

The Financial Action Task Force called on the State to “actively pursue” terrorist financing prosecutions saying the amount to date (one case) was “not consistent with Ireland’s risk profile”.

The Financial Intelligence Unit, received 21,682 suspicious transactions reports from financial institutions in 2016, up from 12,390 in 2012. The Terrorist Financing Intelligence Unit received 948 suspicious transactions reports potentially linked to international terrorism in 2016, compared to 683 in 2012.

The Terrorist Financing Intelligence Unit sent 90 reports to Garda Security and Intelligence for investigation in 2016, compared to 76 in 2012.

Mr O’Callaghan said that, in 2016, the Government stated the force would get the necessary resources to enhance counter-terrorism.

It’s clear that one crucial aspect of those efforts is not being properly supported to gather and share intelligence,” he said.

Dr Burke, director for Conflict, Security and Terrorism at Nottingham University, said it was taking An Garda Síochána a long time to recover, but thought it was “turning a corner”.

He said this was due to various reasons, including calls by Commissioner Drew Harris and Security and Intelligence assistant commissioner Michael O’Sullivan for more resources and their willingness to take in civilian expertise.

He said the Financial Action Task Force and the European Commission were pushing this issue as a priority here.

As a result of the Policing Commission report, he said the Government was setting up a national security co-ordinator and a new Strategic Threat Analysis Centre.

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