Careful now, mind how you go! Foreign Affairs tells Aussies in Ireland
Written by Lloyd Gorman
Monday, 02 May 2016 00:00
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By Lloyd Gorman

Australian's planning a trip to Ireland are being urged to show caution while travelling overseas by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Nothing new there then! The default position of the department is to advise its own citizens to be careful whenever they travel anywhere overseas for business or pleasure. The spate of terrorist attacks across the middle East and increasingly in the West are reason enough to make public servants more anxious than normal and any incident of this kind that involves Australian citizens – and the general public are regularly targeted – means they will have to become involved in the aftermath and help clear up the carnage and mess caused by extremists.

Through its Smart Traveller website the department urges people to register their travel plans with its Smart traveller website in advance so that officials and family members can easily track or at least make an educated guess about where they are if a bomb goes off or there is a shooting. Smart Traveller is also used to dish out advice and travel warnings and alerts.

Information given out on the website can be a bit twitchy at times and if you were hanging on its every word to make decisions about what you doing or where you were going you'd need to log in to it on a daily basis.

On April 11 the page for Ireland - which includes a generic waning about the threat of terrorism in Europe and also a briefing about the risk and types of crime visitors might be exposed too – was updated with a specific section under the heading of civil unrest and political tensions.

“Tensions between dissident republicans and unionists have increased in the lead up to the centenary of the Easter Rising (24-29 April – Proclamation of Irish independence),” the updated site states. “You should avoid all protests and demonstrations, including those associated with Northern Ireland, as they may turn violent. Instances of civil disorder can rapidly escalate into violence and you should avoid them wherever possible, including through careful monitoring of the media and following the advice of local authorities.”

Australians travelling to Northern Ireland are directed to another part of the site for travel advice about the UK for the situation in Northern Ireland.

The UK portion of the site is dated February 17 and has a more detailed section about the danger of terrorist attack posed to Britain by its involvement in the wars in Syria and Iraq.

There is a section too for Northern Ireland, and while it goes into some detail, there is nothing to reflect the department's updated alert about the Easter Rising Commemorations – which have so far passed off peacefully, even magnificently you might say.

“The threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism, which is a separate indicator, is unchanged at ’moderate’ in England, Wales and Scotland, meaning that the risk of a terrorist attack is assessed as “possible but not likely” and ‘severe’ in Northern Ireland,” Smart Traveller states.

“In recent years, Northern Ireland-related terrorist groups have used firearms and explosives to target police and military and occasionally commercial interests such as banks and local businesses. Civilians have been injured in these attacks.”

It too has a section about civil unrest and political tension in the six counties. “You should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent,” the advice goes.

“Instances of civil disorder can rapidly escalate into violence. You should avoid them wherever possible, including by carefully monitoring the media and following the advice of local authorities.

“Since the 1998 peace agreement, the political situation in Northern Ireland has improved. However, we advise you to avoid the annual parades which occur in Northern Ireland during the months of April to August, especially the weeks leading up to the ‘Twelfth’ (also called Orange men’s Day) on 12 July when tensions may be heightened. These parades may turn violent with little warning. Australians could inadvertently be caught up in violence directed at others.

On April 14 the Australian Embassy in Ireland pitched in with its own advice.

“Overall, we advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Ireland,” the Consular service suggested. “This travel advice is consistent with previous advisories. We consider that the safety and security conditions prevalent in Ireland are similar to those of Sydney or Melbourne. Consistent with the Australian Government’s general advice to Australians travelling overseas, we consider that Australians should avoid activities which could potentially escalate into protests and demonstrations.”

In the – please God unlikely – event that something went seriously wrong in either the Republic or the North it would be the job of Perth based Julie Bishop as Foreign Affairs Minister to respond to and handle the crisis from the Australian perspective. Bishop, who has her constituency office in Subiaco, is a familiar face and formidable figure in her own right but lets hope she doesn't pop up in that capacity!