Funding for disadvantaged loyalist communities in Northern Ireland will help avert violence during Irish reunification, a Senator has said.
Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly, who has compiled a number of research reports on preparing for a united Ireland, says international best practice dictates that Irish and British governments, along with the EU, should prepare now to pre-empt paramilitary recruitment in young people if Ireland votes to reunify.
The possibility of a return to loyalist violence has been discussed as a direct result of any Irish reunification.
During his research, Mr Daly heard contributions from unionist politicians, loyalists, community leaders, and former soldiers who identified paramilitarism as a concern in the event of a united Ireland.
Mr Daly says only funding and education for the most vulnerable children and young people will actively stem the problem before it arises.
In one report, Uniting Ireland and its People in Peace and Prosperity, there is a submission from a former US diplomat and deputy counter-terrorism coordinator, Michael R Ortiz, who says that the best practice for countering violent extremism is a “whole of community approach” which should be prioritised ahead of time.
“It is important to consider the ways in which future violence could be prevented, including by strengthening counter-terrorism and law enforcement efforts, supporting civil society organisations and providing citizens with the tools they need to intervene during the radicalisation process,” Mr Ortiz said.
The former director of legislative affairs at the US National Security Council made three recommendations for countering extremism in Northern Ireland.
A national level task force, including local leaders, civil society, with national and local officials.
This task force should develop a national strategy for countering violent extremism, which should include a wide range of voices.
To implement the strategy, an individual body should be created, with clear metrics for progress and ongoing engagement with communities.
“If Ireland is able to launch a transparent, open and inclusive process with strong mechanisms, I believe this will go a long way in working to prevent terrorism before it starts,” Mr Oritz said.
Senator Daly says that the 17 recommendations from the Irish parliament Good Friday Agreement Committee have still not been acted on almost three years on, and in turn will create issues for what he calls “inevitable” Irish unity.
“Only 60% of the unionist community believe Northern Ireland will be part of the UK in 10 years, according to the Ashcroft Poll,” Mr Daly said.
“Six year-olds today will be living through that process and it’s likely that if they do not have that assistance, they will be exploited.
“How do we prevent the most disadvantaged children being exploited by, what are essentially are criminals, masquerading with a cause?
“We need to invest in education and employment and giving them a future, if we don’t do this now there will be consequences.
“Policy neglect in this area seldom goes unpunished, this need to be done now, early, and not in the future.
“We need engagement from the US, the EU and governments, there are experts ready and willing to help set up such a taskforce.
“All that requires a plan, to identify where the money needs to go and look for the money to fund it, and it requires decades of funding to ensure those disadvantaged areas are targeted with the help they need, because those kids will most likely suffer the most and be exploited.
“If you know that there is likely to be problem, we need to address it before a problem.”