New laws allowing Ireland to request the help of foreign special forces in the wake of a terrorist attack will be passed by the Dáil today. The EU directives will also allow top-trained gardaí to assist countries, such as France, if requested.
The Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Amendment Bill transcribes eight directives into law here, allowing Ireland and other member states to join forces when fighting terrorism.
While not a direct reaction to the Paris attacks, the measures could be used now if necessary.
“The [garda] emergency response unit could respond to a terrorism crisis in another country or gardaí could ask for assistance from specialist forces abroad,” said a Department of Justice source.
Ireland could be best placed to offer assistance, given the experience of gardaí here tackling paramilitaries in the North.
Judicial co-operation will also be enhanced with EU agency Eurojust under the new legislation to tackle terrorist or criminal issues.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last night briefed the Fine Gael parliamentary party about security issues here, in the wake of the Paris atrocities, ahead of meeting her counterparts in Brussels tomorrow.
She said she was expecting an update from gardaí soon on security matters.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Simon Coveney is examining options to help France free up soldiers on peacekeeping missions abroad in the wake of last week’s attacks.
Mr Coveney said it may be possible under the Lisbon Treaty to allow Irish troops replace French troops on missions in North Africa.
But Ireland would still remain neutral while at the same time assisting its European neighbour, following a call for assistance from Paris.
Details obtained by the Irish Examiner show that Ireland currently has 10 defence force members in Mali, to provide training and advice for the Malian defence and security forces.
Defence Force members are also serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations in the north of the African content, with three in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) and four in the Ivory Coast.
Mr Coveney signalled that Ireland would now consider sharing data with France on movements of potential terrorist suspects and individuals being monitored.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said Paris will have talks with individual member nations to see what help they can offer.
While army representatives suggested this week that Ireland would not have the manpower to defend or respond to a terrorist attack similar to the one in Paris, Minister Coveney warned against any scaremongering.
He insisted that the threat level to this country is low and said Ireland has the capacity to deal with a serious incident.
He also said people should not be saying that there is a threat out there which Ireland does not have the capacity to respond to.
Elsewhere, Minister Fitzgerald is expected to discuss opening up the sharing of passenger lists among EU states, when in Brussels tomorrow.
The issue of monitoring stop-off hubs in Italy and Greece for migrants coming into Europe will also be discussed by justice ministers.
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