Radicalised young Brits returning from Iraq and Syria may be flying into Dublin and Shannon and sneaking back into the United Kingdom via Londonderry, Newry and Aughnacloy.
That’s according to Independent Unionist MP Sylvia Hermon, who has urged the Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, to regularly engage with the Irish Justice Minister and the Home Office in order to ensure the Irish border doesn’t become an easy route of access for departing and returning jihadis.
“Obviously, radicalised young people from Britain can come back through Shannon or Dublin just as easily, and through the Republic of Ireland, and then across the border into Northern Ireland and into the United Kingdom,” said the North Down MP during a recent briefing of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
Ms Villiers said she has discussed the threat of Islamic terrorism with the Irish Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald.
“I have had a number of discussions with Minister Fitzgerald on the joint challenges that we face, because, of course, both our countries are at risk from Islamist extremism. Primarily, these contacts are carried out by Home Office Ministers and their counterparts, but it is something that I have raised in my regular discussions on security matters with Minister Frances Fitzgerald,” she said.
Earlier this year the North Down Unionist cautioned against allowing Northern Ireland become a ‘soft underbelly’ for terrorists.
She said: “There is no border built; there is no wire or wall, and it is full of little lanes and easy access to the United Kingdom. I am extremely anxious to ensure that Northern Ireland does not become the soft underbelly of the rest of the United Kingdom for those who would wish us ill or want violence in this country.”
In February new anti-terror measures were introduced allowing Border Force officials to seize the passports of people leaving the United Kingdom from ports in Londonderry and other parts of Northern Ireland. It also introduced new temporary exclusion powers to make it an offence for individuals subject to such orders to return to the UK without first engaging with the UK authorities.