There are five jihadists held in Irish prisons serving convictions relating to Islamist extremism offences, according to new research.
The report, citing Irish security sources, said all five people had sentences for funding terrorist offences abroad, rather than participating in terror plots here.
It claimed this profile reinforced other evidence which suggested that Islamic State (IS) and its affiliates regarded Ireland as a target of fundraising, not as a target of attack.
The report Guns and Glory: Criminality, Imprisonment and Jihadist Extremism in Europe, was published by the Counter Extremism Project and the European Policy Centre and examined 10 European countries, including Ireland.
The chapter on Ireland, written by Ian Acheson of the project, claimed there was evidence that the threat of radicalisation existed in the Muslim community, especially among its youth.
It said prominent theologian Umar al-Qadri, imam of the Mustafa Islamic Centre of Ireland, had been vocal in “warning against the threat of extremist indoctrination”.
“It is estimated that there are five people within the Irish prison system who have been convicted for Islamist extremism-related offences,” the report said.
Based on interviews with Irish security sources last April, it said these convictions all related to “terrorism-funding offences, as opposed to active engagement in terrorist plots”.
It added: “This reinforces other evidence which suggests that ISIS and its affiliates regard the Republic of Ireland as a target of criminal exploitation for fundraising, as opposed to a target for terrorist attack.”
It said a small number of prison staff had received training on radicalisation.
The report cited one estimate, from the Department of Justice, that around 50 people had left Ireland to fight for IS in Syria. Other estimates are lower and include a range of groups fighting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
The research said though small in number, it meant that Ireland was “one of the biggest per-capita exporters of foreign terrorist fighters in Europe”. It said based on interviews with Irish security sources, the country “does not have wide powers to detain Isis extremist suspects who return to Ireland from abroad”, unlike in the UK. The report said gardaí preferred “a more low-key consensual approach”.
“This typically involves the police developing a long-term relationship with those suspected of violent extremism, but for whom proof to a criminal standard is lacking,” said the report.
This mirrored the Government’s approach to counter-extremism, with reintegration and community policing used to “prevent youth from becoming radicalised by ideologues”, it said.