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.
Drink driving laws have been developed in Ireland as a response to a perceived social threat against which we must collectively defend. However, I believe that there is difficulty in translating the aggregate damage into a substantial risk posed by individuals. Recent changes to drink driving legislation merely act to criminalise responsible social drinkers – and does little to make the roads safer.
The reality is that most people (including this writer) are in agreement that drink driving is dangerous and poses an unacceptable risk to other road users and therefore we accept that government must intervene. For obvious logistical reasons, people who live in urban areas with better access to public transport are more accepting of the ever more stringent drink driving rules, but it is also fair to say that those of us living in rural Ireland understand the need to dissuade those who might be tempted from driving in a state of intoxication.
On its surface, the political response to the problem seems simple: reduce the legal limit for blood-alcohol content, and drunken-driving fatalities will fall, too. However, in reality the previous limit and arguably earlier legal limits had already addressed this problem.
People who cause accidents when drink driving do not do so because they had a single small drink, or because they had a few drinks the night before. The problem rests with those drivers who pay no attention to the drink driving limits at all. However, unfortunately for the people of rural Ireland our politicians lack the ability to ‘think outside the box.’ Successive Ministers have been unable to find any new or more imaginative ways to address the problem and therefore they simply bow to pressure from various advocacy groups and simply reduce the legal limit some more. This moronic course of action has effectively closed down rural pubs, led to a significant and increasing level of rural isolation and criminalised people who are actually causing no harm, all for no significant or discernible gain.
The reality is that although drinking makes driving more dangerous, statistically speaking, the vast majority of road accidents are caused by people who have not consumed any alcohol, and the number of accidents actually caused by drunk drivers as a percentage of all accidents is minuscule. Therefore, I pose the question, would it not have simply been fairer and more effective, to substantially increase the penalties for those caught driving at the older higher levels and to introduce a system where there are severe consequences for anybody who causes an accident as a result of being under the influence at any level. In other words, offer back a little ‘personal responsibility’, allow people drive after a few drinks, but severely punish them if they cause an accident and legislate for mandatory prison terms for people who cause a fatality whilst under the influence.
If Fianna Fail is to re-establish their position as a powerhouse in Irish politics they need to beat Fine Gael to the future. I am worried that the current leadership in Fianna Fail are simply satisfied with the status quo, with a tendency to be more concerned about survival than political growth. Michael Martin’s fear of leaving the protection provided to him by the confidence and supply arrangement may well act to secure political stability, but this approach will not be rewarded by the average voter who has more immediate and pressing concerns than Brexit.
This week’s renegotiation of the infamous supply and confidence agreement offered Fianna Fail an opportunity to stamp their mark on the current administration. However, a demonstrably inept effort to negotiate a deal effectively offered Fine Gael a blank cheque, for the duration of this government, in return for nothing more than a promise to deliver on previously broken promises. Micheal Martin has proved once again that he does not understand the “Art of the Deal.” A pre-negotiation declaration that Fianna Fail would support the government through Brexit, “in the national interest,” cultured an environment where Fine Gael knew they needed to offer little more than a few shallow platitudes to keep the Leo show on the road.
This agreement had little to do with Brexit. It was designed to buy extra time for a leader who is not prepared to fight an election and was accepted by a governing party which doesn’t need an election in the absence of any real opposition.
Fianna Fail is being reduced to a shadow of its former self because the party is taking its direction from a leader who has lost sight of its identity. Core values have been abandoned in an effort to “modernise” the party and this has led to a disconnect between the grassroots and its hierarchy. Micheal Martin’s style of leadership is absent of courage he has allowed the mainstream media dictate his stance on all social issues, rejecting the views of the vast majority of the party’s membership and supporters. In this relentless push to promote a liberal agenda, Michael Martin has singularly disenfranchised the party’s traditional supporters for no political gain.
Leaders without vision fail and Fianna Fail’s problem is that its current leadership is lacking in vision. Michael Martin is failing in his job to align the organisation around a clear and achievable vision. By refusing to take up his role as leader of the opposition he has stymied political debate and has caused his membership to become disillusioned.
Unless a new leader rises to the challenge, with a renewed vision for the future of this island, I fear that Fianna Fail is destined to become a spent force in the Irish political landscape.
There is nothing more pathetic than a politician who attempts to gain support by taking advantage of his constituents’ kind nature. It’s high time that we called out the cynical politicians who regularly play the sympathy card to gloss over any discernible lack of achievement.
Some of our politicians simply have no shame. In fact some would even sell their own mother for a vote. While no true leader will ever want a sympathy vote, too many politicians in this area play on the emotions of their constituents to mask their inability to tackle real issues or achieve results.
We should demand politicians who are sympathetic to the plight of their constituents, not politicians who expect sympathy for themselves.
For too long Roscommon has been held back by the “problem merchants,” politicians who spend all of their time whinging about their personal plight, and complaining about issues which they never address, as they know they cannot deliver. We don’t want politicians who are afraid to make promises, we deserve politicians who are brave enough to make promises, and who have the confidence and ability to deliver.
Any amadán can reel off the issues facing people living in rural Ireland, but having the ability to raise an issue does not mean that you have the ability to fix the problem.
So, let’s stop conversing in problems and demand that our politicians bring solutions to the table. That’s their real job after all!