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ISIS in Ireland and France

Terrorism is a daily threat in vigilant France; Ireland is complacent

Not a season has passed since 2015 without a terrorist attack from ISIS or Al-Qaeda in France. Interventions in the Middle East, perceived discrimination against Arabs including ghettoisation and stringent or doctrinaire secularisation are the primary reasons for the attacks, though many have also been random, typically ‘franchised’ retrospectively from ISIS. Ireland is no model of racial tolerance and has not been generous in accepting refugees from conflicts in the Middle-East, including Syria. 1400 members of the Irish Defence Forces operate in Syria, Lebanon and Morocco on Peace Support Operations with the UN.

Although Ireland has not participated in the war against terrorism in the Middle East, it is not impossible that one day it would suffer an attack. It is believed there are around 150 radicalised Muslims living in Ireland and that there are terrorists supporting ISIS financially from Ireland. For example, an electrician in his twenties named Hassan Bal was arrested in Waterford after confessing he had financed ISIS. He gave 400 in October 2015 in a city in Bosnia-Herzegovina to Stevo Maksimovic who was apparently supporting the terrorist group. Bal was jailed for 20 years. Last year, two men from Morocco and Algeria were arrested in Dublin suspected of assisting the financing of ISIS but the Garda didn’t have enough evidence to jail them and they were later released. It is understood the Garda Special Detective Unit was conducting several surveillance operations on people suspected of supporting terrorism in Ireland. Also in 2017, Humza Ali – a bricklayer from Birmingham – tried to travel to Syria via a Dublin-Istanbul flight. Turkey refused him entry. He went back to England where he had been before he had travelled to Ireland by boat and ferry. The man and one of his accomplices, Ali Akbar Zeb, had been sharing photos and videos on WhatsApp to promote the terrorist group. It is believed they were training for an attack.

Last year, an Irish woman named ‘Sister Aaliya’, from Limerick who had become radicalised to Islam, claimed she had heard ISIS terrorists talking about running a 2.8m fund from Dublin. The men linked to this financing were planning a terrorist attack in the capital.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan revealed last month that the Garda has been ordered to use barriers on busy streets like Grafton Street in Dublin. He claimed to be worried about people coming back to Ireland after having travelled to Syria or Iraq in support of ISIS.

Security specialist Dr Tom Clonan thinks terrorist attacks are possible in Ireland. He told Village that, according to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation in London, there were “40 Irish passport-holders who have gone to engage in jihad in the Middle-East”. The reason why Islamists do not attack on the soil of Ireland, he says, is because Muslims are integrated in this society.

The Defence Forces are ready to deploy 500 soldiers if terrorists attack. However, civilians inevitably get killed before any police intervention. Even though France has long been on high alert, there are continuing fatalities. The state of Emergency declared there following the November 2015 Paris attacks only expired, after five extensions, in November 2017. In Ireland the state of emergency only expired after peace in Northern Ireland in 1995, and the Emergency Powers Act still allows internment, the juryless Special Criminal Court and draconian provisions for detention. However these are measures frmo a different era and with a different focus. It is believed our information technology and architecture; and our security and intelligence systems are over 20 years out of date. Two years ago, the association of Garda Sergeants said the Garda was not equipped or trained to deal with the terror threat here.

The best way to avoid terrorism, according to Tom Clonan, is to stop interfering and bombing the Middle-East. “Muslims have been treated so badly since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the war in Syria. It is a major cause of radicalisation because people are suffering.” ISIS attacks are sadly frequent in France, the European focus for ISIS. 11 terrorist attacks, starting with Charlie Hebdo, have been committed since 2015 alone – resulting in 245 dead. 17 attacks have failed and 50 were foiled. 9 cases out of 11 targeted French police.

Certainly Ireland has not been affected by terrorist attacks. However, the truth is that nobody knows the percentage chance that situation might change. After the murder of an Irish tourist in Tunisia three years ago, Tom Clonan thinks Ireland should have raised its terror threat level from Moderate to Substantial, the level before Severe and Critical. The 2017 Stockholm attack shows neutrality and non-interventionism are not definitive shields against attack, even if Ireland were not facilitating US troop and ordnance movements through Shannon. Clonan changed his mind after Stockholm: “Now terrorist attacks in Ireland are a distinct possibility”.

Marianne Lecach