In case you missed it, last week saw Europol, which is the European Union’s Agency for Law Enforcement publish its EU Terrorism Situation & Trend Report for 2019.
One of the most startling, but perhaps not entirely surprising pieces of data to emerge from the Report was the fact that in 2019 a total of 5 people were arrested here for offences related to Jihadist terrorism.
This is in sharp contrast to the reports published in previous years.
In fact, you will have to go back to 2016 to find the last time Ireland was referenced in the Europol Terrorism Reports and even then, the references were to our own homegrown crop of dissident Republicans.
The most prominent of the five people to be arrested in 2019 was of course former Air Corp member Lisa Smith.
The four others were, according to Connor Gallagher over at the Irish Times, “three women and one man,” all members of the same family and all “arrested on suspicion of financing Islamist terrorist activities.”
Gallagher also reports that despite being arrested by the Special Detective Unit in January of last year, none of them have yet faced any charges.
Just to be clear, in terms of the Irish policing context, counter-terrorism and security measures are actually overseen by the Security and Intelligence Department of An Garda Síochána.
They also deal with threats posed by Organised Crime, so the brief is pretty extensive.
One of the most recent counter-terrorism exercises engaged in by the Gardaí was coordinated in October 2019 by the Garda Emergency Response Unit. It focused on training scenarios “in relation to transport hubs in preparation for the 2020 European Championships.”
The preventative aspects of radicalisation and terrorism however are dealt with by the Garda Racial Inter-Cultural and Diversity Office and its team of Ethnic Liaison Officers. Officers in this section “engage in community policing exercises and aim to build relationships of trust and confidence between minority communities and An Garda Síochána.”
According to an Oireachtas briefing note on Counter-Terrorism, the aim of the Racial and Inter-Cultural and Diversity Office is specifically to enable “the prevention of radicalisation at an early stage and seek to ensure that negative stereotyping of minorities is avoided, particularly in the wake of terrorist attacks worldwide.”
The benefits of focusing on younger members of communities is one that is shared by the organisations like European Eye on Radicalisation (EER).
Here is what David Young wrote over on the EER website only last year:
“the radicalization of youth is occurring unabated in urban centres throughout Ireland, but it has precious little to do with political or religious ideals. Instead, it is driven by the growth of gang culture and underpinned by social deprivation.”
This perspective, while bringing valuable insights and breadth of vision is not of course the whole story.
There are many young people who have grown up, or will grow up in areas of social deprivation who will have nothing to do with radicals of any description.
The link is not automatic. In fact, if this ‘causal link’ is pursued too far it can descend into nonsense.
The Europol Report also reveals a number of other disturbing pieces of data. For example; a total of “119 foiled, failed and completed terrorist attacks were reported by a total of 13 EU Member States in 2019.”
It also reports that “1004 individuals were arrested on suspicion of terrorism-related offences in 19 EU Member States, while ten people died and 27 were injured because of terrorist attacks in the EU.”
The full Europol Report can be accessed here.