Airey Neave was a soldier, lawyer and a politician. He was the first British officer to successfully escape from Colditz and was also present at the Nuremberg trials. Airey Neave entered politics after the war, subsequently becoming principal Opposition spokesman for Northern Ireland and one of Margaret Thatcher’s closest advisors in the mid-70s. He was killed by the Irish National Liberation Army in March 1979, in the car park of the House of Commons, by a sophisticated under car IED. The Neave family decided to establish a Trust in his memory and subsequently received a large number of donations. The Trust provides financial and wider support for research into the understanding of terrorism, political violence and counter-terrorism measures. On 22 November Pool Re and the Airey Neave Trust will present the inaugural Airey Neave Memorial Book Prize.
Ahead of this event, our communications team sat down with Ed to discuss the prize, the Airey Neave Trust and the importance of research in the field of terrorism.
Q: Why did you get involved in the Airey Neave Trust?
My father was a serving MP in 1979. He knew Airey Neave, and by coincidence, I had met Airey when he was canvassing in my father’s constituency during the 1974 election. My father was in the House of Commons when Airey was murdered and heard the massive explosion. He became one of the founding Trustees. When my father was preparing to retire, he asked me to become involved, and I became a Trustee in 2003.
Q: From where do you draw your professional and personal interest in combatting terrorism?
My International Relations degree focussed on terrorism, political violence and counter-insurgency. In the early 80s, I had first hand experience of counter-terrorism operations patrolling the streets of West Belfast as a young officer in the Royal Green Jackets and subsequently led a number of counter terrorism operations across the globe during the rest of my Army career. I retired from the British Army after 24 years of service, so I have seen the impact of terrorism all over the world. Today I am Head of Risk Analysis at Pool Re, where I am responsible for developing our capacity and capability in understanding the terrorism threat landscape and appropriate risk mitigation measures.
Q: Why has Pool Re decided to sponsor the Airey Neave Memorial Book Prize?
Pool Re’s role goes beyond providing terrorism reinsurance and we are committed to enhancing terrorism thought leadership across the insurance market and wider private sector. An overarching part of our mandate is to help the UK build its resilience to terrorist acts. Developing a detailed knowledge and understanding of all terrorist perils is fundamental to our purpose and, like the Airey Neave Trust, we are keen to promote and sponsor all forms of research into the causes and consequences of terrorism We have our own in-house Terrorism Research and Analysis Centre which, among other things, publishes the Terrorism Threat and Mitigation Report twice each year. Other examples of our work include modelling the effects of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attack methods on the UK mainland, with Cranfield University. We are also engaged with Judge Business School, at Cambridge University, on the modelling of the threat of terrorists using the cyber domain to commit destructive attacks.
We believe knowledge can best be improved through a tripartite relationship between academia, business and government to promote terrorism risk awareness and management. Furthermore, we think that more research could be focussed on the areas where the Government seeks greater insight, so that research can be made available and accessible to the people who can apply it to improve our national resilience to terrorist activities. As Andrew Parker, the Director-General of MI5, said recently, it is a challenge simply keeping pace with the threat, let alone looking over the horizon to the wider and deeper drivers of terrorism. We need experts to undertake considered research on these topics. The four books on the Airey Neave prize shortlist address some of these very challenges.
Q: Which books made the shortlist?
We received over 30 applications for the prize and out of these we produced a long list of twelve. Four books made the short list which was considered by a panel of experts, including Sir David Omand and Professor Mike Clarke.
Al Qaeda’s Revenge: The 2004 Madrid Train Bombings. The authors Reinares and Riedel have written an enormously informative account of the 2004 Madrid train bombing. Their book presents extremely detailed research on the presence and complexity of Daesh and al Qaeda in Europe today.
Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State. Soufan’s book tracks key people involved in Salafi Jihadist terrorism since the death of bin Laden, providing incredibly useful insights.
Hacking IS: How to destroy the Cyber Jihad. Nance and Sampson have assessed the importance of digital space to ISIS, and looked ahead to what they have called a “cyber jihad”.
Soldier Spy. Marcus reveals the everyday frontline action in UK counter-terrorism, underlining the pressures faced by those brave men and women who defend our country.
Q: Can these authors help Pool Re directly?
Absolutely. All these books give us a deeper understanding of the specific issues they address and may lead us to undertake more detailed research about their particular theme, methodology, technology or threat actor. The terrorism landscape has never been so diverse. We may need such information for insurance purposes, or the Government may seek more detailed knowledge which produces actionable intelligence. Targeted research and analysis will help underpin our collective strategies in the fight against terrorism.
Q: Who else might benefit from the insights in the books?
The books themselves will hopefully be more widely read. Any Airey Neave Book Prize winner is a must-read for any terrorism insurance underwriter or broker as well as students, policy makers and practitioners in the counter- terrorism field. Winners are the pinnacle of research in the field.
Q: Pool Re will sponsor the prize for three years, and maybe longer. How will the prize evolve?
We would like the Neave prize to become the “Booker Prize” for terrorism research. We want the prize to become the one that authors and potential authors in this field strive to win, which will promote longer-term research and understanding of the threats we face. A £5,000 prize is a large incentive for any author to publish research in the accessible form of a book and we believe it will encourage more to do so. This should fuel momentum which will support and encourage the greater understanding the longer-term threats that terrorism present to business, societies and governments – those very freedoms that Airey Neave fought so hard for throughout his career.