How big a problem is Islamic radicalisation in Ireland?

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How big a problem is radicalisation in Ireland? That’s something mosques disagree on.

The number of people who have radical or extreme Islamic views here varies from a handful to over 100, depending on who you ask.

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, an imam based in Blanchardstown and the chair of the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council, thinks the risk of radicalisation in Ireland is “much smaller when compared to the UK” but that Muslim communities here “need to be vigilant”.

Al-Qadri said he believes there are “at least 100 people [in Ireland] that would be supportive to the form or understanding of Islam that Daesh (ISIS) adheres to, that all these militants adhere to”.

“This support does not necessarily mean that these people are terrorists, it means that they could support them, you know, ideologically. They may also support them financially.”

Al-Qadri said these people need to be monitored.

When asked how he arrived at the figure of 100 people, he told us: “I’ve been living here for the past 14 years. I have a lot of people throughout Ireland who are in contact with me and keep informing me about the various different activities that have been happening.”

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána said the organisation is “monitoring no more than 30 people living in this State” in relation to radical views.

During our interview, Al-Qadri placed an emphasis on Muslim leaders providing people with a “counter-narrative” to make them “immune” to dangerous ideologies. He said certain speakers who have been given a platform by some mosques in Ireland are “known to have had radical views”.

“They’ve had the opportunity to address Muslims, particularly youngsters, teenagers, and I think that is a problem.” He said mosques in Ireland should not invite “hate preachers” to speak to their congregations.

Dr Ali Selim, of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI) in Clonskeagh, home of Ireland’s largest mosque, disagrees with some of Al-Qadri’s assessments. He’s less concerned with the threat of radicalisation in Ireland, saying it’s “not at all” an issue.

He also disputes that in the region of 100 people in Ireland hold radical views.

“I don’t think that’s true, I think the number is smaller. I cast huge doubt over the existence of individuals who are having radicalised thoughts in Ireland. Even if you travel outside of Ireland to Muslim countries or Arab countries, Ireland has a fantastic reputation, it is known as a friendly country. Muslims living here, they enjoy equal rights.”

Imam Ibrahim Noonan, who is based in Galway, is concerned about certain speakers preaching in mosques around Ireland. He said some of these people are “renowned for their extremism”.

“They have been coming here and they have been lecturing here. I can’t understand how the government allowed it. OK, they had British passports, but they’re here. I mean everyone knows it, everyone involved in Islam in Ireland knows they’re here and that they’re spreading their hate here.”

Noonan said if imams don’t support the more extreme views held by certain preachers, they shouldn’t invite them to speak here.

“If they don’t support it, they shouldn’t allow them in. They should have said ‘You’re not welcome here and that’s it, bye bye – you’re not coming in.’ But they allow them to come in because they are ‘renowned scholars’.

Concerns have been raised about some preachers who have been invited to speak at the mosque in Clonskeagh, due to their views on certain issues. One speaker in particular has been accused of making anti-Christian statements and defending female genital mutilation (FGM).

When asked about this particular speaker, Selim said: “I personally have never heard him inciting hatred or anything like that … I have never heard him saying that.”

Selim said, when the mosque invites a speaker to give a talk, the mosque itself decides the theme, rather than the individual.

There have long been rumours that the mosque in Clonskeagh is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. The mosque’s imam, Shaykh Hussein Halawa, has always denied this.

Documents published by Wikileaks in 2011 show that the US Embassy in Dublin had concerns about this possible link, as well as “radical” people supposedly meeting at the mosque.

The cable, written in July 2006 by then-US ambassador James Kenny, also discussed the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), whose general secretariat is based in Clonskeagh.


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Ireland’s seemingly low rate of granting asylum is clearly a smokescreen

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“When I arrived here it felt such a big relief. I felt ‘I’m fine, I’m safe’. All I knew was that I was leaving my country; I did not know what lay ahead for me,” Khaled says.

For the Sudanese national, however, it would take almost six years in the Direct Provision system to secure asylum in Ireland. His application was refused at first instance, when assessed by the Government’s international protection office, and was also rejected when considered by an appeals tribunal.

Today, the 35-year-old is happily settled and working as a fitness instructor in Cork city. He is hoping that his son, whom he hasn’t seen since for nine years, will be able to join him under the family reunification programme.

Khaled is one of almost 16,000 people who sought asylum in Ireland between 2008 and 2016. He is also among the almost nine in 10 applicants refused asylum at first instance during this period, according to an analysis carried out by Belfast-based website The Detail.

The special investigation, supported by the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund and Tony Ryan Trust, examined the European Commission’s database, Eurostat, to reveal that Ireland had the second-lowest rate of granting asylum (13 per cent) across the EU and compared poorly to the EU average of 44 per cent between 2008 and 2016.

Asylum grant or recognition rates are calculated based on the grant or refusal of asylum at first instance when applications are decided by the Government’s international protection office. The Eurostat database does not indicate how many applicants, such as Khaled, go on to secure asylum following judicial review proceedings in the High Court or Supreme Court.

Eurostat data shows that Irish authorities granted asylum to 1,990 applicants at first instance between 2008 and 2016. The majority were granted refugee status (70 per cent) because of a serious threat to their life or freedom, as defined under the Geneva Convention. The remaining 30 per cent were granted subsidiary protection because of a risk of serious harm if they were returned home.

More than half of those granted asylum came from Iraq (260), Syria (255), Afghanistan (175), Somalia (135), Pakistan (120), Iran (110) and Sudan (110).

Of the 13,710 applicants refused asylum, the highest numbers came from Nigeria (2,810), Pakistan (1,685), the Democratic Republic of Congo (685), Zimbabwe (620), Albania (520) and South Africa (425).

While yearly asylum grant rates show some improvement since 2014, Ireland’s more recent rate remains significantly lower than the EU average – in 2016 the EU average rose to 61 per cent, Ireland stood at 23 per cent.

The spokesperson added: “In Ireland the five leading applicant countries for 2017 were Georgia, Albania, Pakistan, Nigeria and Zimbabwe which are not acknowledged conflict zones with high grant rates.”

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The Islamist terrorism threat in Ireland

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In early January, a brutal series of stabbings in the town of Dundalk sparked a discussion across Ireland about the country’s preparedness in the face of international terrorism.

On 3 January, news reports from the small town of Dundalk in County Louth emerged of an 18-year-old foreign national who had stabbed three individuals, killing one and badly injuring two. While the motive of the attack has yet to be established, in the days following the incident, many in the Irish media were asking how was it possible that almost no information existed concerning the perpetrator’s nationality, his immigration status or about when he entered the Irish Republic.

The assault – which some suggested could be the country’s first “lone wolf” attack – also reinvigorated a debate about security and Ireland’s preparedness that began months earlier following the revelations that the Irish government had granted residency to Rachid Redouane who would later take part in the attack on London’s Borough market in June 2017. This is despite the UK government’s decision to reject his asylum application.

Terror related activities linked to radical Islam are a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland, which has developed considerably since 2011. Approximately forty Irish citizens are estimated to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight against coalition forces. They include Muslim converts such as Terence Edward Kelly (also known as Khalid Kelly), who went to Syria in 2016 but later died in Mosul after driving a vehicle carrying an improvised explosive device. As with other European nations, Ireland is now wondering what security threats may lay in store, as its own battle-hardened citizens return home.

While the Irish Republic must contend with threats brewing abroad, within its borders, cases of terror-related offences have hit the headlines. In late September 2017, in the west of Ireland, a suspected ISIS cell of eight, headed by two Chechen brothers was put under surveillance for suspicions they were undertaking ‘dummy runs’ using the local postal service to send items to the Middle East, as well as working to fundraise and make financial transfers to support extremist organizations. Months earlier, after an 18-month police investigation, in the southern town of Waterford, a couple in their twenties was arrested for helping to fundraise in support of terrorist activity.


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African couple to face trial accused of genital mutilation of their daughter at their south Dublin home

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A couple have been sent forward for trial accused of genital mutilation of their daughter at their home in Dublin.

The man, 35, and the woman, 26, faced their second hearing when they appeared before Judge Paula Murphy at Dublin District Court.

They had been charged in December and were then remanded on bail to appear again today when they were served with books of evidence in court by Det Sergeant Danny Kelly.

The couple, who are from an east African country, are accused of genital mutilation of the girl at their home in a south Dublin suburb on Sept. 16, 2016 and another charge under the Children’s Act for allowing a child to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected causing unnecessary suffering or injury.

The offence of genital mutilation, on conviction, can carry a sentence of up to 14 years. The man and woman, who did not address the court today, cannot be named for legal reasons.

Judge Paula Murphy noted from state solicitor Jonathan Antoniotti that there were reporting restrictions to protect the child’s identity and she said they remained in place for the duration of the proceedings.

The age of the child has not yet been stated in the case. The Director of Public Prosecutions consented to the couple being returned for trial on indictment.

After the books of evidence were served, the judge made an order sending them forward for trial to the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court where they will face their next hearing on Feb. 23, 2018.

They have not yet formally indicated how they will plead. There was no objection to bail subject them having to abide by a number of conditions.

Judge Murphy also told them that they must notify the prosecution if they intended to use an alibi in their defence. Legal aid was granted.

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Catholics face higher unemployment than Protestants in Northern Ireland

Catholics have generally experienced higher rates of unemployment than Protestants in Northern Ireland over the last 14 years, though the difference between the two rates has decreased over the period.

In 1992 the unemployment rate was nine per cent for Protestants and 18 per cent for Catholics; in 2016 these rates were five per cent and seven per cent respectively.

The Executive Office (TEO) published the Labour Force Survey Religion Report 2016 on Wednesday. It examines the labour market characteristics of Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

Between 1990 and 2016, the proportion of the population aged 16 or over who reported as Protestant decreased from 56 per cent to 44 per cent. The proportion who reported as Catholic increased from 38 per cent to 42 per cent.

The proportion reported as “other/non-determined” has more than doubled over the same period from six per cent to 14 per cent.

A consistently higher proportion of working age Protestants have been in employment compared with their Catholic counterparts between 1992 and 2016. However, this difference has decreased over time – in 1992, 69 per cent of working age Protestants and 54 per cent of working age Catholics were in employment; by 2016 these rates were 71 per cent and 68 per cent respectively.



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Asylum seekers waiting nine months for decision on status to be allowed to work

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Asylum seekers who have not had a decision on their status within nine months of applying will be allowed to work.

The Minister for Justice has announced sweeping reforms of the immigration system on foot of a Supreme Court ruling.

Last year it was found the banning of asylum seekers from seeking employment was unconstitutional.

“When the Supreme Court gave its judgment in the N.V.H. case on 30 May last, the outcome was that the Court declared Section 16(3)(b) of the International Protection Act, which prohibits access to employment without any temporal limit for applicants, to be unconstitutional in a protection process,” said Charlie Flanagan TD.

“The Government could have chosen to interpret this decision narrowly. It could have simply amended the provision prohibiting access to the labour market in the Act by way of primary legislation.

“Instead, the Government listened to the calls from Deputies and Senators, the McMahon group and NGOs that Ireland should align its bespoke system with European norms.

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Ban preventing asylum seekers from working to be declared unconstitutional in February

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The Supreme Court will declare the ban preventing asylum seekers from working here unconstitutional in February.

The five-judge court told lawyers for the State that it would make the declaration on 9 February, regardless of the progress the State has made in addressing the court’s findings on the ban.

The court found the ban to be unconstitutional “in principle” last May.

But it deferred making the declaration for six months to allow the legislature to deal with the issue.

When the case returned to court today, the State asked the court for a further postponement until March.

Lawyers for the State said the matter was complex with many issues requiring to be addressed.

The court heard that the State was in the process of opting into the EC reception directive, which contains a provision requiring member states to allow the right to work in certain circumstances.

Lawyers for the Rohingya man, who brought the successful challenge to the ban, said they would prefer the court to go ahead with the declaration today, but said the issue was for the court to decide.

Chief Justice Mr Justice Frank Clarke said the court last May, had “exceptionally” not taken the normal course of immediately declaring the provisions to be unconstitutional rendering them inoperative.

He said the court recognised there were choices to be made as to how the difficulty was to be addressed.

Mr Justice Clarke said the whole point of giving the State a time period was to allow the legislature make decisions and the court had no role in those.

He said there would be no further hearing and the court’s intention was to make a formal declaration of unconstitutionality on 9 February.


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