Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has described as “incendiary” the comments made by Islamic extremist Anjem Choudary on RTÉ television that Ireland was a legitimate target for terrorist attack.
It comes as gardaí close the net on the caller who issued a bomb warning in the name of Islamic State to the Kildare plant of US computer giant Intel last Tuesday.
Ms Fitzgerald said the remarks of Mr Choudary provoked “fear” in the community.
The notorious preacher was arrested in Britain last September on suspicion of supporting a banned terrorist group and encouraging terrorism. He previously praised those responsible for the 9/11 attacks in the US and the bombing attacks in London on July 7, 2005.
He was given extensive airtime on RTÉ’s Prime Time last week, during which he said Ireland was a “legitimate target” due to the US military using Shannon Airport as a refuelling base on its way to Afghanistan.
Yesterday, on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Ms Fitzgerald said: “There are clerics, and we saw what he had to say, who say things, which are very incendiary, which do provoke fear. He makes a whole range of claims about the UK, about Ireland, about other countries. We have no particular intelligence in relation to a particular threat based on any actions which have been taken in this country.”
The minister said she would introduce new legislation in the Dáil in the coming weeks, creating new offences of public provocation to commit terrorism, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism.
She said the main risk was from returned foreign fighters, saying that around 30 people from Ireland had gone to Syria and Iraq in recent years, including three that have died in fighting.
“Clearly, everybody is increasingly alert to the threats posed by foreign fighters, indeed people returning who have been radicalised, and by attempts on the internet to radicalise more and more young people,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
She added: “Most of the threats tend to come from returned fighters, indeed they can come from lone wolves as well. As the Garda Commissioner [Nóirín O’Sullivan] said last week, it can very difficult, as we’ve seen in France, that even with good intelligence it can be hard to anticipate actions, so the community have to be alert, but you don’t want to panic people unduly.”
Meanwhile, gardaí hunting the man who rang in 999 calls last Tuesday from a public phone box claiming there were 12 bombs at Intel’s Leixlip plant and citing Islamic State are making good progress.
The Irish Examiner understands that detectives are following definite lines of inquiry. They have set up checkpoints and made enquiries in Balbriggan, north Dublin, the location of the phonebox. This has resulted in information that has prompted further enquiries. It is thought the caller has not yet been identified.
Gardaí are going through CCTV footage and are awaiting the results of DNA and fingerprint tests taken from the phone box.
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