By Cormac O'KeeffeSecurity Correspondent
Gardaí were able to establish within two hours of the London terror attacks links to Ireland and identify one of the three suspected attackers, the garda commissioner has said.
In a strong defence of the force’s response, Nóirín O’Sullivan said An Garda Síochána took national security “very seriously” and had secured numerous arrests and deportations in other operations involving jihadi terrorism.
Deputy commissioner for operations and security, John Twomey, said that a paper exercise last Sunday night showed that nine specialist armed units would have been able to respond to a terrorist incident in Dublin city centre within the eight-minute time-frame it took British police last Saturday.
Ms O’Sullivan said that since the Bataclan massacre in Paris in November 2015, they have been reviewing both their threat assessment and response capability.
She said the two attacks in London since March showed the “low sophistication” involved, with the use of hired vans and knives.
The police chief said they responded very quickly to last Saturday’s attack.
“Within an hour of the incident happening, we were in touch with both our intelligence counterparts and our law enforcement counterparts so that we can understand and assess very quickly if there is any impact on Ireland from those attacks.
“Within two hours, what we were able to do was identify that one of the individuals was believed — we have to be mindful of what the London Met has said, the individuals have not been definitely identified as yet — one of the individuals whose name was believed to have had some links with this jurisdiction, we were able then to bring together all our resources, our immigration people, our counterterrorism people and local policing to make sure we knew exactly what the connections were with this individual in this country.”
This led to the identification of Rachid Redouane, a 30-year-old Moroccan, who had lived at different addresses in Dublin, for periods since 2012.
“The indications are that this individual lived in this country for a short period of time going through a normal process of immigration,” Ms O’Sullivan said.
“Thereafter, he left with his wife, a UK citizen, to the UK, and we’re satisfied with the inquiries made at this time that there is no link to terrorism in this country, and we are also satisfied that the indications from our partners that that’s also the case.”
Garda investigators arrested two other Moroccan nationals as part of their inquiries: one in Limerick and another in Wexford.
Both were questioned in relation to the fraudulent use of Redouane’s PPSN number, which may have been passed around fellow countrymen.
There is no evidence of any link to terrorism, but detectives will exhaust the connections and further arrests are expected.
Gardaí are examining the “addresses, associates and activities” of Redouane.
The commissioner rejected suggestions from commentators that Ireland was a “weak link” in terms of international terrorism.
She pointed out that a number of arrests were conducted in recent weeks, referring to separate operations — in Dublin/Meath and Waterford — targeting people suspected of financing Islamist terrorism last April and May.
She also referred to the deportation last year of a main suspected of being a major IS recruiter in Ireland.
She said the 300 garda ethnic liaison officers had built up “very close relationships” with minority communities.
Ms O’Sullivan said: “I think we have to be very careful: terrorism is not about religion, we should not link terrorism to any particular religion.”
The commissioner was talking at a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police at Farmleigh in Dublin. She is currently the world leader for Europe on the body.
President Donald du Luca, a US police chief, said he got “chills” thinking about recent events.
Deputy executive president and Boston police chief, Terence Cunningham, said that legally accessing encryption technology was “absolutely necessary in the battle against terrorism”.
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