Gardaí “concerned” about Islamic terror sympathisers in Ireland

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The garda officer in charge of Irish security intelligence has said there are small numbers of international terrorist sympathisers in Ireland, but claims they are being closely monitored.

However, Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan has said families and children returning from conflict zones who have been traumatised by war will be a major issue.

Approximately 30 Irish citizens travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight with the Islamic State group.

Mr O’Sullivan was speaking at an Interpol conference in Dublin for senior security and police officers from all over Europe.

Secretary General of Interpol Jurgen Stock said that the international terrorist threat is now more complex than ever.

Mr Stock said Ireland was not seen as a weak link but a strong contributor to the security of Europe.

Mr O’Sullivan also said that the gardaí were concerned about the potential for a lone wolf attack here.

Despite this concern, he said they were working closely with the Muslim communities and that the threat level in Ireland was moderate.

He said there was evidence that terrorist groups were working with organised crime, which has funded attacks in recent years in Paris and at London Bridge.


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Refugee reunification scheme opens to bring family members to Ireland

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A family reunification programme that will allow up to 530 refugees join family members in Ireland will open for applications on Monday.

The Humanitarian Admission Programme 2 (IHAP) will allow Irish citizens of foreign birth, programme refugees and beneficiaries of international protection (those with refugee status) to apply for immediate family members to join them.

People from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Eritrea and Burundi (the top 10 major source countries for refugees as listed by the UN Refugee Agency) will be entitled to apply for family reunification under the scheme which opens on May 14th.

The nomination process will remain open for six weeks until June 20th, 2018. The introduction of the scheme comes four years after the State’s 2014 Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme which enabled Syrians already living in Ireland to sponsor vulnerable family members to join them.

It also follows the introduction of the 2015 International Protection Act which restricted family reunification applications to spouses and children under 18. The introduction of the IHAP scheme will allow a limited number of people to apply for family members such as siblings and elderly parents to join them in Ireland.

Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton welcomed the introduction of IHAP as a “humane and flexible response to the needs of those fleeing high-risk areas”.

They will be entitled to “status in their own right rather than a dependency status on their family member,” said Mr Stanton. “This is important for their long-term integration and sense of belonging in our communities.”



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Mandatory quotas of migrants to each EU state to be discussed at EU summit

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Among the items on an increasingly crowded agenda for EU leaders at their June summit is the fraught saga of how the EU treats asylum seekers, specifically the “Dublin regulation” (named after the Dublin Convention signed in 1990).

This determines responsibility for looking after the migrants once they arrive on our shores – it requires asylum seekers to make their application in the first EU country they arrive in. That country is then responsible for accepting or rejecting their claim, and the seeker may not restart the process in another state.

Most EU states accept that this puts a grossly unfair burden on countries such as Italy and Greece which have seen an influx of millions in recent years. The challenge in reforming “Dublin” is, however, how to regulate that desire for solidarity fairly, and whether it can be used to send mandatory quotas of migrants to each EU state when then the next crisis breaks.

At their December summit leaders asked the Bulgarian presidency to work to come up with a version they could all agree by consensus in June and the latter’s compromise does seem to be garnering critical support. But a consensus is impossible. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, all already in breach of European Court rulings after 2015 ordering them to take EU-mandated relocations, are adamantly opposed to any mandatory quotas.

Newly re-elected Hungarian prime minster Viktor Orban recently unapologetically reiterated to the German daily Bild his objections: the EU’s migration policies threaten the “sovereignty and cultural identity” of Hungary, he said. “We don’t see these people as Muslim refugees. We see them as Muslim invaders …

“We believe that a large number of Muslims inevitably leads to parallel societies, because Christian and Muslim society will never unite,” Orban told the paper.

Ireland, in principle, supports the idea of solidarity and mandatory relocations, but has reservations about some of the provisions suggested by the Bulgarian compromise. Because of a treaty opt-out from the Schengen passport-free travel system, Ireland has freedom to choose whether to opt in to Dublin, and, unlike the UK, has done so in the past, accepting its quota of resettlements.




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Sex offenders & radical Islamists among illegal immigrants who used Irish-based marriage scam to obtain EU residency

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Gardai are spearheading a Europe-wide investigation after uncovering an Irish-based international bogus marriage scheme being used to obtain EU residency for illegal immigrants, including sex offenders and suspected Isil supporters.

The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in Dublin are co-ordinating the massive probe in conjunction with Eurojust, Europol and police in several EU states, which is targeting the multi-million euro criminal enterprise facilitating sham marriages mostly between Asian men and female EU citizens.

The move was prompted after GNIB officers in Ireland smashed an elaborate network that had organised more than 2,100 fake registry office marriages here between non-EU males and non-Irish female EU citizens from 2011 to 2015.

As part of Operation Vantage detectives are now working with their colleagues in the UK and several EU states as the authorities try to trace and then deport hundreds of bogus ‘grooms’ from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Mauritius and Algeria.

The Sunday Independent can reveal that the GNIB is investigating 970 marriages involving women from Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia and Portugal in liaison with the law enforcement agencies in those states.

It is understood that the investigation centres on marriages between Asian nationals and 200 Latvian, 91 Estonian and 181 Slovakian women. The bulk of the cases under investigation involve over 500 Portuguese ‘brides’.

Facilitators who ‘sourced’ the women are being identified with the help of intelligence supplied by the gardai and will face criminal charges including human trafficking. The ‘brides’ may also face criminal prosecution in their home countries.

Operation Vantage has identified 16 Irish-based ringleaders involved in the racket which is estimated to have generated more than €20m for the gangs: each marriage cost between €15,000 and €20,000.

Operation Vantage was launched in the summer of 2015 by Chief Supt Dave Dowling after officers noted a surge in the number of applications for asylum which were followed up with notifications of intention to marry a non-Irish EU national. In particular, there had been a spike in the number of applications from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi men, with 760 giving notification to marry in the nine months from January 2015 alone.

When officers investigating a marriage between a Pakistani national and a Latvian woman visited another business address in Limerick last December, they found evidence of a further 11 fake marriages involving individuals using the same address.

The investigation also played a key role in identifying two Algerian men with proven links to Isil who were subsequently arrested and deported. The pair were part of a larger group of immigrants, many of whom had married Slovakian nationals living in Longford and Dublin.

In the course of the operation gardai have also identified three sex offenders who have applied to reside in the State.

Operation Vantage has led to over 100 arrests and the 16 ringleaders, both EU and non-EU nationals, who have been identified so far are either before the courts or in the process of deportation.

In addition, a further 183 deportation orders have been issued as part of the operation.


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Mosque and Islamic cultural centre planned for Kilkenny

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Angry scenes marred a public-information meeting about a planned mosque that took place in Kilkenny on Thursday evening.

The meeting was requested by the Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness and his son Andrew, a Fianna Fáil councillor, in response to queries from local residents. “We are here to answer your questions and concerns,” Imam Ibrahim Ndure explained to the 200 or so people who had come to O’Loughlin Gaels GAA club for the meeting, which was intended to provide information about the planning application and planning process, and was attended by a planning expert and by the project’s architect.

Shouting and heckling dominated the two-hour event, however. Most of the audience members who made comments said they opposed the planned €5 million development, which includes a mosque, community hall, library, accommodation, halal shop and cafe. They said it might be close to a burial ground and could have a negative effect on local traffic and parking.

John McGuinness’s brother Eugene, who lives in the area, said to applause: “I have walked to every door in this area, all the housing estates, and 99.9 per cent of people do not want this building to go ahead

Another speaker said: “We don’t want a mosque. This is not just for the Muslims of Kilkenny. They are going to come from all of Tipperary, Wexford. This is Kilkenny, not Mecca. Don’t be bringing people down here. Don’t build the mosque. We don’t want it. You have to respect our culture – for us to respect you, respect us first.”


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Irish attitudes to immigrants lower than European average

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Half of Irish people believe some cultures are superior to others and almost half think some races are born harder working than others.

Close to one in five, links intelligence to race, believing that some races are born less intelligent than others.

Attitudes to the 200 nationalities, races and ethnicities that make up Ireland’s foreign-born residents are also closely linked to the state of the country’s economy with more positive attitudes prevailing in boom times and more negative attitudes in the recession.

Some groups of people prompt more negative responses than others. Fewer Irish people are willing to welcome more Muslims into the country than immigrants generally, and fewer again are open to having more Roma reside here.

The findings are from an Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission which looks at Irish attitudes to immigration and diversity between 2002 and 2014. Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the commission, said while the attitudes recorded were not extreme when compared to how many of our European neighbours feel about their immigrant communities, they still gave rise to some concerns.

The report notes that 535,475 non-Irish nationals now live in Ireland, making up roughly one in nine of the population and giving Ireland the fourth highest proportion of foreign-born residents in the EU.

Ms Logan cautioned however, that the statistics gathered pre-dated the increase in migration to Europe from the Middle East in the last few years and the very divisive debate that has raged across Europe since.

The report found that, unlike other European countries, people’s attitudes do not vary much with age, whether they are rural or urban dwellers or whether their politics are classed as left wing or right wing.

Ms Logan said that she considered this a positive feature as it meant the immigration issue was less polarising here than elsewhere in Europe.

The report is based on the biennial European Social Survey which interviewed 2,000 Irish people for each survey from 2002 to 2014. Attitudes were ranked on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being the most positive.

The highest ranking from Ireland was 6 which related to the question of whether it was felt immigration was good for the economy. This was recorded in 2006 at the height of the boom. That fell to a ranking of about 4.2 in 2010 at the height of the recession but it increased to 4.8 in 2014.

Respondents were also asked about the cultural impact of immigration and whether they felt overall that immigration made Ireland a better place. In both cases, attitudes were more positive during prosperity than during recession although the rankings changed less over the period surveyed.

Irish attitudes wavered more as the economy fluctuated and were generally more negative on the cultural impact of immigration.



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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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