Tom Clonan‘We would be considered Europe’s weakest link in terms of intelligence and security.’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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It was a pretty stark assessment from security analyst, Tom Clonan, speaking to Sean O’Rourke on the Today programme.

Tom was one of a panel of guests which included Eoghan Corry, editor of Travel Extra, Edel McGinley, director of the Migrant Rights Centre, and Nick Squires, Rome correspondent of the Telegraph newspaper, all bringing their own perspective to a story which hit the headlines yesterday: a Garda investigation into an alleged people-smuggling operation through Dublin airport.

At the time of writing, three men have appeared in court charged in connection with the alleged trafficking operation, two of whom are Aer Lingus employees.

The operation is believed to have involved a bogus travel agency based in Rome, with fees of up to €20,000 paid by illegal immigrants to enter Ireland. It is understood that once those immigrants arrived at Dublin airport, they would be disguised as groundstaff, bypassing security, to complete the smuggling operation.

The current investigation has prompted a review of security at Dublin Airport but, said Tom Clonan, it should be put in the context of the criminality it is.

“If you have employees of whatever company, whether Aer Lingus or another stakeholder, who are intent on committing a crime, there is no point in blaming the airport or the airport authority or the company for that,” said Tom. “That is foursquare on the shoulders of people who decide to engage in criminal activity.”

During the interview, Sean O’Rourke read one text message from a listener who had worked at Dublin airport for 30 years, and said he could “count on one hand” the amount of times his ID badge was checked going from air-side to land-side.

To which Tom replied with his own anecdote, an experience at Frankfurt airport in 2010, during the big snowfall, when he was en route to Dublin.

“All the lights went out in the duty free shop. A worker who was there with a mop and a bucket, he brought me through to air-side.”

Scary stuff.

Tom Clonan was also keen to put some additional context on this episode, namely, that An Garda Siochána are faced with two enormous challenges not of their own making.

Firstly, that they are required to cover the entire spectrum of security in this country, whereas in our nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom, those duties are divided amongst a range of organisations such as a traffic police, MI5, individual constabularies, a separate border security force, and so on.

On top of this, according to Tom Clonan, the force has been decimated by austerity cuts in recent years, putting enormous pressure on resources.

The end result, however, is stark.

“Through no fault of their own, our security infrastructure, broadly, nothing to with the airport, is quite weak. And we would be considered Europe’s weakest link in terms of intelligence and security.”

To listen to the full interview, click here.


Photo credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

© The Listener 2017

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