NewsCrime Desk

Senior figures say gardai well equipped to deal with threat of Islamic State

President of the Association of Garda Superintendents Noel Cunningham
President of the Association of Garda Superintendents Noel Cunningham

Senior gardai have said that the organisation is adequately skilled and trained to deal with the threat of so called Islamic State but that continued community policing resources are needed to help with intelligence gathering.

Supt Noel Cunningham, president of the Association of Garda Superintendents, said that combating dissident republicans over the last number of decades has also helped train gardai in the gathering and dissemination of intelligence.

However, he added that this strand of gathering information, which helps combat international terror groups that pose a potential threat to Ireland, would need continued resourcing on the ground and through community policing.

Noel Cunningham was speaking ahead of the association's 30th annual delegate conference in Killashee House, Naas, Co Kildare, where more than 50 delegates were present representing over 150 senior gardai.

"New situations are being thrown up every day. Who would have thought that several years ago that members of [IS] would be identified in the south of Ireland? This is a whole new departure for us," he said.

"I believe we are adequately resourced and I think we have a huge expertise built up over the years dealing with the threat of the IRA and more recently with the dissident groups.

"I think we are very, very well equipped and skilled in relation to intelligence gathering and intelligence dissemination but what I do believe is that this requires resourcing on the ground," Supt Cunningham said.

"The general population of people who are moving here - from different ethnic minority groups, from different religions are coming here for a peaceful new life for their families.

"They don’t want to engage in terrorism and it is as much in their interest as anyone else to identify these people who are trying to take advantage of situations and in fact reflect badly on them.

"It is extremely important we are resourced and that we can properly engage with those groups and those communities to gather that intelligence and feed it into our system and act accordingly," he added.

The conference will also hear of concerns over the manner in which investigations are conducted with the Garda Ombudsman, with senior gardai currently responsible for carrying out aspects of the investigation.

"One of the main issues being raised is the issue in relation to GSOC investigations. When members of the public make a complaint it goes to GSOC and their expectation is that it is independently investigated," the Association of Garda Superintendents president said.

"However, at present the superintendent deals with most of those investigations. Superintendents carry out investigations in an extremely professional way but the issue is we should not be doing it," Supt Cunningham added.

Other issues being raised at the conference will be issues surrounding garda resources and developing a strategy focusing on policing in the future.

Later this afternoon the conference will be addressed by the Deputy Garda Commisioner, Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald and former head of the Labour Relations Commission Kieran Mulvey.