Statement of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence on the security measures being put in place for the visits of Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama particularly in view of a pipe bomb having being found last week in Trim, County Meath.
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I thank the Deputy for raising this matter.
Let me begin my reiterating that the use of explosive devices such as that employed recently in Trim is a matter of ongoing concern both to me and to the Garda Authorities, no matter who is responsible for them. Garda strategies are very firmly focused on disrupting their use and, where sufficient evidence is available, proffering charges and bringing such persons before the Courts.
The House should remember that there are significant penalties available to the courts following conviction for explosives-related offences, including a penalty of life imprisonment for causing an explosion likely to endanger life, up to 20 years imprisonment upon conviction for an attempt to cause an explosion likely to endanger life and up to 14 years imprisonment following conviction for possession of explosives.
As with all such incidents, the incident to which the Deputy refers is of concern and is the subject of an active ongoing Garda investigation. Clearly it would not be appropriate for me to go into the details of such investigations, but I would appeal to anyone with any knowledge of this matter to share it with the Garda Síochána.
With regard to the incident itself, the Garda authorities inform me that at about one o’clock in the morning of 21 April a car drew up near the Duke of Wellington monument in the centre of the town. A device was thrown at the monument. It caused a small explosion. There were no injuries and no damage, apart from some scorch marks, was caused to the monument. An army Explosive Ordnance Device team were called. They examined the remains of the device which was deemed to be a pipe bomb-type of device. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the incident.
I cannot state categorically who was responsible for this particular incident. It is quite possible, but not certain, that it may have been some sort of atavistic response to the announcement that Queen Elizabeth is to visit the country later this month.
Let me say that opposition to the Queen’s visit is the response of a tiny minority of the people of this country. We as a people and this country are fast approaching the centenary of having gained our independence. It is a testament to our maturity as a nation that this visit is going ahead at this time.
Shortly thereafter we are to welcome the President of the United States to our shores. A symbol of the special bond between our two nations.
I have no doubt that the people of Ireland will give the traditional welcome to both these visitors as it gives to all visitors and for which we are, rightly, renowned.
An Garda Síochána is primarily responsible for the security of the visits of Queen Elizabeth and of President Obama. I have the utmost confidence in the Commissioner and his officers, who I know are totally committed to ensuring that these events pass off without incident.
An Garda Síochána, with the support of the Defence Forces, will continue to make all the necessary arrangements to make sure the appropriate level of security is in place for both visits. I am sure people generally will be understanding of the security arrangements which have to be made and will cooperate fully with them. Security arrangements are, of course, a necessary feature of visits of this kind to any country and I am sure they will not detract from the great welcome which Irish people will give to both of these distinguished guests.
There are, of course, a whole range of security considerations that have to be taken into account in relation to the impending visits of the Queen and President Obama and those considerations are based on an ongoing assessment of the risks involved. The House will appreciate that it would be counterproductive for me to go into the detail of security arrangements.
Obviously there are those who would seek to disrupt these visits. The right to peaceful protest is an important one and one that my Government will always uphold – but we will not tolerate those who seek to break the law to cause disorder nor will tolerate those who set out to maim or murder. By their actions they display a barbaric and arrogant contempt for the constitutional civil and human rights vested in all who reside on or visit this island
These visits will be welcomed by the vast majority of the people of Ireland. But let me reassure the House, that neither I, nor the Government, are in any way complacent about the security measures which will be necessary to make these visits a success.
Finally, let me add that these visits are also a statement to the world that Ireland still has a lot to offer. For all the difficulties we face, there is every reason for us, working together, to be confident in our long-term future. No tiny minority should be permitted to cloud that message.