Ireland, Intelligence and Security
The failed Easter Rebellion of 1916 sparked decades of guerilla warfare and terrorist attacks in Ireland. Ireland finally gained its independence from Britain in 1921, but the accord that granted the establishment of the Irish Republic also divided the island. Six northern counties, now Northern Ireland, remained in British possession. The partitioning of Ireland brought relative peace to the Irish Republic, but initiated decades of violent conflict between Irish loyalists and British unionists in the north. After remaining officially neutral during World War II, Ireland withdrew from the British Commonwealth in 1948 in protest over continued English rule in Northern Ireland.
Despite earlier conflict, Ireland and Britain have worked closely to stem terrorism and political conflict in Northern Ireland and throughout the British Isles. Today, Ireland is enjoying relative calm in the Northern Ireland conflict. A series of peace accords and disarmament treaties between rival factions in the region have yielded limited successes. In 2001, Irish intelligence and security forces joined a European coalition to fight global terrorism. While not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Irish republic is an influential member of the European Union.
Ireland maintains a stated policy of neutrality, however the nation has a sizable military. The Óglaigh na h-Éireann , or Irish Defense Forces, have two dedicated intelligence and security divisions. The G-2 military intelligence branch collects and analyzes both foreign and domestic intelligence. The agency often aids other European nations and the United States in international intelligence operations. G-2 provides intelligence information on terrorist organizations associated with the Northern Ireland conflict, often cooperating with British intelligence at MI5. G-2 is one of Europe's most sophisticated intelligence agencies, conducting remote, computer systems, signals, and human surveillance.
The Irish Defense Forces also possess a highly specialized action unit known as the Sciathán Fianóglach an Airm , or Army Ranger Wing. Recognizing the need for a special deployment force to respond to terrorist threats and hostage situations, the Irish government arranged for the training of an elite force of Irish Defense soldiers at the United States Army Ranger School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. The specially trained unit returned to Ireland to train other military personnel. In 1980, the official Army Ranger Wing was formed. The Army Rangers conduct counterterrorism operations, and are trained in hostage rescue and urban street fighting.
In addition to military forces, Ireland's largest civilian security force is the An Garda Siochana , known commonly as the Garda. The Garda is the Republic of Ireland's national police force. The main charge of the agency is the protection of citizens and domestic national interests. In conjunction with the Army Ranger Wing, the security and intelligence unit of the Garda conducts regular counterintelligence surveillance. The Special Branch C3 Section is the Garda's elite counterterrorism unit.
Ireland is one of Europe's leading sites of technological and computer systems. The growth of Ireland's technology industry has increased the need for corporate and economic security. The Garda and other Irish government agencies have increased efforts to thwart corporate espionage, money laundering, and the illegal trafficking of technology and funds to suspected terrorist organizations.
While terrorism related to the conflict in Northern Ireland has substantially subsided in recent years, the Irish intelligence community continues extensive counterterrorism operations. Irish Defense Forces have trained counterterrorism forces from other European nations. In response to increasing global terrorism threats, the Irish Defense Forces and Garda are preparing heightened defense structures and tightening domestic security measures in preparation for the Irish Presidency of the European Union in 2004.