‘Ireland not immune from threat of terror attack’

Gardaí are monitoring “a small number of people” but have stressed the threat level here remains low.

‘Ireland not immune from threat of terror attack’

The assessment of threat levels followed a day of drama in the Belgian capital and as the National Security Council met to examine the potential threat facing Ireland.

In a statement released as the Brussels death toll continued to rise and amid a notably increased security presence around Leinster House — including a Garda helicopter — a spokesperson for the Department of An Taoiseach said an attack on Ireland is “possible”, but unlikely.

However, the spokes- person confirmed that a small number of people living in Ireland are being closely monitored by gardaí and security personnel due to fears they may take part in an attack.

“We cannot consider that we are immune from the threat. It remains the case that an attack here is assessed as possible but not likely. The level of threat is kept under constant review by An Garda Síochána and all appropriate measures will continue to be taken.

“The activities of a small number of people based here and whose behaviour may be of concern will continue to be monitored closely.”

Late last year, gardaí confirmed up to 40 Irish citizens have travelled to North Africa and the Middle East to fight with Islamic State.

After an early-morning cabinet meeting yesterday, caretaker Taoiseach Enda Kenny ordered the National Security Council — which consists of the secretary generals of the departments of An Taoiseach, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Justice, and the chief of staff of the gardaí — to meet to assess the threat facing this country.

While the group concluded that there is “no immediate threat” and decided against increasing airport security, there was a noticeably increased Garda presence outside Leinster House.

Meanwhile, large parts of yesterday’s Dáil proceedings saw party leaders condemn the Brussels attacks before a minute’s silence for those who died.

While confirming no Irish citizen is known to have died or been injured by the events in Belgium, Mr Kenny said the numbers who have lost their lives are “substantial” and the “horrific” incident cannot be repeated.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the bombings are “an attack on all of us” and “strike at the very heart of European people and the European Union”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams condemned the attacks in “the strongest possible terms, while leading Independent Alliance TD Shane Ross said he wanted to express his “utter revulsion” over the incidents.

Acting Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton said while the attacks “fly under the flag of religion, they are political in nature”.

Anti-Austerity Alliance-People before Profit TD Paul Murphy said “the purposes of the attacks would appear to be an attempt to divide people and creation a situation of racism” in western countries.

Speaking yesterday from the European parliament in Brussels, Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said officials had been “told to stay indoors, we’ll be here for the foreseeable future”, while Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan urged Irish citizens in Belgium to take “extreme caution”.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the attacks are another “dreadful reminder of the savagery of terrorists”. Noting the “dark history of this island” she added: “We have to bear in mind that an attack on our European neighbours is an attack on us all.”

More in this section