Ireland ‘is not immune to extremist attacks’

Floral tributes near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch.

Ireland needs a comprehensive programme, including prevention and intelligence measures, to combat all forms of extremism, a leading security expert says.

The call from Paul Gill, associate professor of crime and security at University College London, came as community gardaí yesterday visited mosques to provide reassurance following concerns from within the Muslim community.

Gestures of sympathy over the terror attacks in New Zealand included people bringing flowers to mosques, Christians standing vigil outside prayers in Kerry, the Lord Mayor of Cork opening a book of condolences, the divisional officer of Dublin West addressing worshippers in a local mosque, and the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin directing remembrance prayers at all Masses on St Patrick’s Day.

Dr Gill said the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, so far claiming 49 lives, are the “latest in a series of mass atrocity attacks drawing from the same pool of grievances against immigrant communities”.

The Irish academic, who has conducted extensive research on ‘lone wolf’ terrorists, said this was a “large-scale movement of people” who were trying to inspire one another to conduct similar attacks.

He said: “Ireland should not think itself immune.”

Dr Gill said the fact that the attack was live-streamed by the attacker and watched in real time is “very concerning” and gave would-be terrorists a “guaranteed audience”.

He said the fact that these videos are proliferating on social media and some mainstream news sites “should be of concern for us all” and he called for “greater regulation” of some platforms.

“Beyond that, the same platforms have provided a mouthpiece for many to consistently promote bigoted views and incite violence like we saw in Christchurch,” he said.

He said the Global Terrorism Database, compiled by the University of Maryland, shows how rare terrorism was in New Zealand, with 20 attacks in more than 30 years, with one fatality.

“For New Zealand, this attack looks like a complete outlier,” he said. “Looking beyond New Zealand’s borders, it is the latest in a series of mass atrocity attacks drawing from the same pool of grievances against immigrant communities.

“This is a large-scale movement of people enabling one another, and seeking to inspire similar attacks elsewhere. Ireland should not think itself immune.”

He said combating right-wing extremism is becoming a growing priority and Ireland needs a “joined-up” approach to combat all forms of extremism.

“This includes preventative measures and a centralised intelligence function to detect, manage and mitigate the risks posed by all forms of violent extremism,” Dr Gill said.

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