Ireland will consider repatriating extremists who have travelled to fight with terrorist groups like ISL, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said. Although he stated that individual cases would be considered on their own merits, Mr Varadkar has taken the dangerous position that this country shouldn’t expect our citizens “to be somebody else’s problem”.
Mr Varadkar couched his comments declaring that “we think we may only have one Irish citizen (in ISIS), it may be as few as one.” However, this estimate is a far cry from that reported by the Irish Examiner, that other security sources including An Garda Siochana have put the estimate as high as 30.
Mr Varadkar continued that “We’ll have to consider whether these people legitimately acquired their citizenship, I would be very loathe to revoke anyone’s citizenship, provided they are a citizen by right, or acquired their citizenship appropriately.”
The Taoiseach stance on this matter is quite frankly bizarre. In order to be naturalised in Ireland an individual must declare that they intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation and make a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State, undertake to observe the laws of the State and respect its democratic values. The question therefore is not whether they acquired their citizenship properly, it is whether they continue to be loyal to the State and undertake to observe our democratic values. It is now known that dozens of Irish citizens, the vast majority of whom were naturalised by the State since they left our shores to join the ranks of the Islamic State, or ISIS, which is a militant terrorist organization that emerged as an offshoot of Al Qaeda in 2014. ISIS quickly took control of large parts of Iraq and Syria, raising its black flag in victory and declaring the creation of a caliphate and imposing strict Islamic rule. The group sometimes referred to as ISL — for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — or by its Arabic acronym, Daesh is largely made up of Sunni militants from Iraq and Syria but has also drawn thousands of fighters from across the Muslim world and Europe, including those individuals from Ireland.
ISIS tactics — including beheadings, the taking of slaves and bans on “un-Islamic” behaviour such as music and smoking — are so brutal that it was even disowned by Al Qaeda.
Naturalisation can and should be revoked by the Minister for Justice where an individual, through an overt act, failed in his duty of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State. Therefore, Mr Varadkar’s position is dangerous on numerous levels. Entertaining the notion that Ireland would allow a second chance for an individual who was so blatantly in breach of the trust endowed upon them by the State would set a dangerous precedent and render the declaration demanded by any individual who aspires to Irish citizenship null and void.
If militants are allowed to return to Ireland, prosecution will be fraught with difficulty, proving specific criminal acts to the standards properly required by Irish courts might be impossible, given jurisdictional issues, not to mention the difficulty in securing witness testimony and other evidence.
While the UK has responded by bringing in a new law this month that makes it a criminal offence to travel to any “designated area”, such as the war zone in Syria, unless the person is engaging in an exempt activity such as humanitarian work or journalism. Even the potential introduction of a law like this in Ireland could not have retrospective effect.
As it is therefore likely that the returnees will not be prosecuted, the State will be burdened with the task of monitoring their activities, and the process of integrating them back into society and protecting them from retribution will be costly.
The Taoiseach attempted to defend his position stating; “I think it’s bad practice to revoke someone’s citizenship and render them stateless and leave them to be somebody else’s problem.” He is simply wrong, it is bad practice for the State to be seen to be weak on this issue, the citizenship bestowed upon individuals who are naturalised is a privilege, not a right. It must be earned, and we must demand that it continues to be respected.
Should the State take the attitude that these individuals are our problem, they should be repatriated but detained on arrival. Once it is established to the Minister for Justice’s satisfaction that any individual has broken their duty of loyalty and fidelity to the State, the Minister must move to revoke naturalisation and they should then be deported to their country of origin. If Ireland takes this stance, it is unlikely that any of these individuals will want to return in any event. Problem solved.
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