Security – it’s a national issue

Ireland’s inaugural National Security Summit will be held in February 2020. Its founder, Gerry Waldron, explains its history and purpose

The National Security Summit Ireland was launched in September 2019, with a series of interesting and provocative presentations and a panel discussion on ‘Protecting Democracy in the age of disinformation’. The event was a warm-up for ‘Slándáil 2020,’ Ireland’s inaugural national security summit, which will take place on February 25 and 26 2020.

The speakers at the launch included The Hon. Mr Justice John L. Murray, former Chief Justice of Ireland, Deputy Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party, Mr Ben Nimmo, Head of Investigations at Graphika, Ms Liz Carolan, Executive Director of Digital Action Ireland and Dr Jane Suiter, Head of the DCU Institute for Future Media and Journalism. The panel examined the prevalence of disinformation and fake news and the readiness and ability of government and state agencies, including An Garda Síochána, to respond to that threat. The Gardaí have a unique role in protecting our democratic institutions and have a legislature responsibility for preventing subvention of our parliamentary democracy and this is a topic we will return to again in 2020.
Slándáil is the Irish language term for ‘security’ and its broader meaning includes concepts of safety, protection and future stability. The summit will connect government, academia, our business community and the public in order to encourage discussion and debate of our national security needs and requirements. In the age of climate chaos, emerging disruptive technologies, and greater connectivity in cyber space, Ireland’s geographical position no longer guarantees the safety and stability that we have become accustomed to.

Across the globe emerging technologies are challenging traditional policing methods and hampering the work of security services. Conversely, many police and security services have leveraged the advantages of technology to develop innovative approaches to solving age old problems. In Ireland, the national security architecture is undergoing unprecedented changes with the organisational transformation of An Garda Síochána, the creation of a National Security Analysis Centre, and growing calls for a comprehensive re-evaluation of defence policies and capabilities. The time to discuss and debate our future security needs is now and we believe that members of the Gardaí, at all levels, need to be part of that conversation.

The summit will take place in the iconic Helix venue on DCU campus and includes Ireland’s first defence, intelligence and security conference. This conference is aimed at Garda uniformed and civilian members, Defence Forces personnel, government officials, academics and interested members of the public. The conference aims to highlight current Irish capabilities and examine the future direction, roles and needs of all our security services. Conference sessions will exam the challenges facing all police and security services worldwide, transnational terror and crime and how to leverage technology and innovation to assist frontline Garda members.

Within the wider summit there will also be forums examining global security, cyber security and emergency preparedness. The emergency preparedness event will be of significant interest to police first responders and operational commanders as the ‘Salisbury Incident’ from 2018 is discussed and national and international experts examine how to enhance interagency co-operation both within Ireland and across the EU in relation to CBRN training and response.

Overall the summit aims to provide an independent platform for members of the policing and security community to engage with senior leaders in their own service, across government, in academia and with the public. This event is a unique opportunity for members of An Garda Síochána to engage directly with their peers in other Irish agencies and visitors from the UK, US and European police and security services.

The summit is organised by volunteers on a not-for-profit basis. In relation to the policing and security content on our agenda we are delighted to be advised by a number of retired Gardaí who served at all levels of the Force and who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge and we are extremely grateful for their time and effort.

Dr. Gerry Waldron is a medical practitioner in the Irish health service and has served as an Officer in the Defence Forces for 16 years in a variety of roles at home and abroad with the United Nations. He is Founder and Director of the Slándáil, a newly created non-profit organisation that seeks to promote education, debate and discussion of national security issues in Ireland. Slándáil will host their inaugural National Security Summit in Spring 2020. Tickets are free for members of all uniformed and emergency services in Ireland, but registration is required. For more information go to or note the Twitter handle @slandail_nssi.

For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.

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