NewsCrime Desk

Specialist garda sniper teams will monitor 1916 celebrations from key rooftops

Garda ERU Snipers
Garda ERU Snipers

The bombing atrocities in Brussels have forced the gardaí to step up their war on terror on two fronts in the run-up to the Easter 1916 commemorative events.

Specialist garda units will be at full stretch to cope with the potential threats to public safety emerging from terrorist groups, based at home and overseas.

Garda Special Branch has the primary responsibility in confronting the twin threats and its resources are divided into two main sections, counter-terrorism (domestic) and counter-terrorism (international).

The Branch, and associated units, were already on high alert as they monitored the movements of dissident republicans to prevent any attempt to disrupt the centenary commemorations.

But the latest attacks by jihadi terrorists, linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, means extra resources have also had to be deployed.

The National Security Committee (NSC), comprised of the secretaries general of the Departments of the Taoiseach, Justice, Defence and Foreign Affairs, the Garda Commissioner and the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces met yesterday morning to review the impact of the attacks on security here. As a result of those discussions, the threat level in this jurisdiction remains at moderate, which means that a threat is possible but not likely.

It had been raised from low to moderate early last year in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris and has not been changed since.

But Ireland has vowed to play its part in the EU response to jihadi terrorism and the onus is on the Gardaí to gather intelligence and keep a close watch on the activities of the small group of IS supporters based in this country.

Ireland has been used in the past as a base for logistics support with sympathisers raising funds, providing crucial documentation such as forged passports and helping activists, who wanted to lie low.

Gardaí also fear that the support group here includes a man, who is regarded as a "focal point" for recruiting extremists to fight in Syria and other conflict zones while also advising extremist leaders based elsewhere.

Following the NSC meeting, garda chiefs increased the level of monitoring on certain suspects and liaised closely with their counterparts in other EU countries on the sharing of intelligence and information on the whereabouts of "persons of interest".

Security measures in place at airports and other possible areas for attack are being reviewed and, where necessary, are being reinforced.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald summed up the views of her security advisers yesterday when she stated that although there was no specific information about a threat to Ireland, we, as a country with the same values as our European partners, are not immune.

Meanwhile, the gardaí and the Defence Forces have been preparing for major centenary events taking place at the weekend, including the parade through the centre of Dublin on Easter Sunday, involving almost 3,000 Defence Forces personnel.

 Last-minute checks will be carried out along the route to deter dissidents hoping to plant explosive devices while garda snipers will be on duty at key buildings.

Additional Army bomb disposal officers will be on standby to respond to call-outs. Security plans have also been drawn up for the annual Garden of Remembrance ceremony on Saturday.

Via Herald