Osama bin Laden was told Ireland was 'ready for Islam'
Osama bin Laden was urged by a fellow leading al-Qa'ida member to send a message to the Irish people to urge them to convert to Islam.
New files removed from Bin Laden's compound reveal how Ireland was occupying the mind of top al-Qa'ida leaders.
Adam Gadahn, al-Qa'ida's American-born spin doctor, proposed an ambitious new front in the global jihad in January of last year.
He called for the group to "prepare a message for the Irish" who he said tended to be sympathetic to the cause of the Palestinians.
He also noted "the increasing anger in Ireland towards the Catholic Church" after "sex scandals and others" and urged the group to persuade the disenchanted to turn to Islam rather than secularism.
Being "historically the prominent enemies of the Jews", Mr Gadahn said, Catholics offered "fertile ground".
Ibrahim Michael Noonan from Co Waterford, who is the first Irish man to become an Imam, said last night that he had become aware of a small, militant element of Islam creeping into the country and called for increased vigilance.
"I have become aware in the last year or so of a radical wing of Islam converting young Irish men who have become disenchanted with Irish society.
"I must stress that 99pc of Muslims living in Ireland have absolutely no interest in this branch of Islam but there is small element of brainwashing going on of young, disenchanted men by some extreme people who have made their way into the country," he said.
Mr Noonan, a former theology student and staunch Catholic, contemplated becoming a priest before converting to Islam.
He is now the head of the Muslim community in Galway.
"It is unsettling to hear that there are certain people in the country who are interested in the kind of mindset of Osama bin Laden," he said.
In the new declassified documents, Bin Laden was also advised there was a possibility of converting Irish people because of their anger over the economic crisis.
Among the documents is the letter from Mr Gadahn to an unknown recipient dated January of last year, which lays out the reasons for reaching out to the Irish people.
The documents also speculate on the impact of the clerical child abuse scandal and the economic crisis on Ireland.
"What helped to prepare the message was the last economic crisis that affected Ireland a lot, thus forcing its youth to look for sources of living in the outside," writes Mr Gadahn.
"The other matter is the increasing anger in Ireland towards the Catholic Church after exposing a number of sex scandals and others," he adds.
The document says that Irish people, "who were the most religious of atheist Europe," are moving towards secularism.
"Why do not we face them with Islam?" asks Mr Gadahn.
The Republic of Ireland has never been a haven for al-Qa'ida activists.
At the turn of the century the United States became concerned at the logistical role being played by a handful of sympathisers based in the Republic, mainly on the southside of Dublin.
As a result, the garda special branch and military intelligence stepped up surveillance and intelligence gathering on a hardcore of around 20 people.
But although a number of terrorists, who had been operating in Afghanistan, were reported to have come here temporarily for a rest, there was no evidence found to indicate that any of the sympathisers based in the Republic were becoming directly involved.