The resources of the Irish police force and military intelligence were traditionally focussed squarely oncounter terrorism ops against militant republicans and loyalists. In that respect their expertise in terms of surveillance, intelligence gathering, the use of informants, infiltration methods and technical expertise was sought out by international colleagues during the 80’s and 90’s.
Terrorism, Gangland Violence & Islamic Extremism
In the late 80’s and early 90’s momentum gathered for a peace deal to end the “Troubles” which culminated in the Good Friday Agreement signed on 10 April 1998. This led to a massive reduction in direct hostilities and the associated criminal activities used to fund same.
Thereafter, the degree to which these counter terror resources and general counter-extremist expertise were required in Ireland diminished greatly. The main counter-terror focus was now in dealing with small, isolated dissident republican groups involved in internecine feuds. During this time some “dissident” groups branched out into general criminality.
Dublin and Limerick became the focus of a new threat in the form of gangland and drug cartel violence and in the late 90’s the resources previously deployed against terrorist outfits were partly re-deployed against this emerging threat.
A unique set of legal challenges began to appear when investigating especially in terms of covertsurveillance and technical surveillance methods and the ease (or not) with which they could be sanctioned and deployed – especially in time sensitive scenarios.
It also became clear that gangs and gang members were proving difficult to tackle and gatheringevidence to support trials met with barriers which previous Privacy and security legislation in the Irish statute books made difficult if not downright illegal. (see 2011 Communications (Retention of Data) Act).
The Criminal Justice Act 2006
The Criminal Justice Act 2006, legislated for during the tenure of Michael McDowell as the Irish Minister for Justice, created a new offence of membership of an organised crime gang, or “criminal organisation”, and made it an offence to assist the activities of an organised crime gang.
Evolving this legislation the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 provided for the use in criminal trials of material obtained during covert surveillance. The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill further defined membership of a criminal organisation and made it an offence to direct the activities of one.
There were also a host of newly created scheduled offences contained in the legislation which allowed gang members to be tried in the non-jury Special Criminal Court.
The Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009
In Section 8 of the Bill a declaration was made that the ordinary courts were inadequate and were not in a position to effectively administer justice as there was a pervasive threat of jury tampering and intimidation.
Despite this there was no evidence that the ordinary courts had previously failed repeatedly to justify such a sweeping alteration of the normal rules of habeas corpus, the right to silence (removed by the introduction of “inferences”), the right to trial by jury and the fundamental right of the presumption of innocence.
To support this general view that the legislation was ill-conceived and introduced to reduce the workload / evidence required in securing convictions in these cases Central Criminal Court Judge Mr. Justice Paul Carney came on record and stated that when gang members were brought before a jury in his court there were no difficulties in securing convictions.
The Radical Islamist Blindspot
Despite the extensive arsenal of covert surveillance (traditional and technical) powers and the reduction in the “body of proof” requirements to secure convictions under these various new powers, little has been done in Ireland to turn this formidable and questionably legal set of instruments toward tackling Radical Islamism.
Ireland is not overrun with Radical Islamists. Salafi Jihadist preachers are not spouting hate and intolerance in the majority of Ireland’s mosques. Apart from some small pockets in Dublin there is not the same level of Islamic ghettoisation in Ireland as opposed to say sweden where so called no-go areas are widespread and the city of Malmö is infamous for radicalisation and general anti-Western sentiment.
G2 Military Intelligence & the Garda Special Detective Unit’s Middle Eastern Desk
These bodies are tasked with monitoring potential jihadists in Ireland and Irish citizens who fight abroad in war zones – specifically Syria and Iraq – for Muslim extremist organisations such as the self-proclaimed “Islamic State”.
Their activities are obviously covert and their objectives and methods are clearly not publicly available or discussed – and rightly so. However, despite numerous attempts by associates it seems that there is no specific publicly available over-arching and non-compromising strategy document (heavily redacted or otherwise) that is available via the FoI Act.
It would be helpful and indeed, in the public interest, to see such a document to determine what level of significance is given to certain potential threats or what the attitude of these units is to the ramshackle approach to some key issues that the public sees via the Irish Court system.
Islamic State is suspected to have been using Ireland as easy access to the U.K. The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) suspects will now it seem be prevented from using Irish ports as an easy access to get to Britain after the Irish police decided to crack down on the threat after concerns were expressed by their UK colleagues.
GCHQ has been monitoring Irish Jihadists and the ISIS support structure in Ireland including radicalisation threats, money laundering activities, fund raising and funnelling efforts and the use of Irishdocuments to assist jihadis with international travel.
“Sovereign” Ireland & GCHQ
Today in a statement it was reported that ‘Operation Mutiny’ began a number of weeks ago after doubts arose that there might be suspects using Irish ports – due to their weak security and surveillance systems– to penetrate the UK to facilitate attacks there.
Security at Irish ports was considered so porous by U.K. authorities that they intervened to reduce therisk that IS terrorists would use Ireland as a staging point for attacks – as the Battle for Mosul escalated – rather than their preferred previous use of Ireland as a soft backdoor for access to Europe.
Ireland has long been seen by Islamic extremists as a country where their support activities for foreignterrorism were largely ignored by the law enforcement community in Ireland in favour of the more highprofile gangland feuds.
An under-resourced Irish police force and domestic intelligence community with a set of IT systems that were woefully out of date did not present a serious threat to compromising extremist comms over emerging encryption and secure communications tools such as Telegram, Hushmail and Tor – despite the sweeping powers introduced to the Irish statute books in 2006, 2009 and 2011.