IRELAND has, for decades, been one of the back doors into Europe for drug smugglers and, latterly, people traffickers.
Our national security measures, our commitment to preserving the integrity of our borders, is, like that of many other small countries, less than it might be. We have a laissez-faire, irrational hope that the world’s extremists, criminal or religious, will pass us by. How wrong and dangerous that wishful thinking has proved.
The confirmation that Rachid Redouane, one of the three terrorists shot dead by British police, during Saturday night’s attack in London, was carrying an Irish identity card and that he had lived in Rathmines in south Dublin, means we can no longer pretend that we are not involved.
In our heart of hearts, we knew we were anyway, as a series of ongoing court cases indicate. One involves a senior figure in an Islamic extremist organisation in Europe, who is currently based in Ireland, but he cannot be named, because of a Supreme Court order.
A number of other extremist suspects have been arrested, because it is believed they are involved in criminal activities, like seeking support for IS abroad, especially fundraising for their fighters in Iraq or Syria.
A small, but disturbing, number of people have left Ireland to fight with IS in those countries. Some were killed, but others, bloodied and battle-hardened, presumably, have returned to live in this country.
Like it or not, we are involved and we have grave responsibilities to our European allies. We must do all we can, much, much more than we are doing today, to ensure that our light-touch security measures are not exploited by extremists determined to continue the numbing pattern of terror attacks in Britain or on the Continent.
That responsibility will become even more onerous — and expensive — when Brexit is finalised and there is a European frontier on this small island.
Though gardaí and British police have yet to establish beyond any doubt that the terrorist is the person described on the card, this sounds alarm bells around the efficacy of our security screening. Like all such services, it is undoubtedly swamped, under-manned, under-resourced, and therefore unreliable.
That the man described on the card had not come to the attention of the authorities for extreme behaviour, or for any other form of criminality, just confirms that — again.
Myriad sources, garda and army, have warned that our security services — and it seems reasonable to include immigration services in this — cannot offer the kind of response these challenges demand.
There may be some management issues, but the primary cause is that we have not invested enough in ensuring that we are safe in a dangerous world. Taoiseach designate, Leo Varadkar, has promised a top-level review.
Maybe he should use his new-broom moment to share a few home truths — if we want reliable security services we will, just as with any other service, have to pay more in tax to sustain it. IS are betting we will make the wrong choice again and, tragically, they may well be right.
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