A conference in Galway has heard that encouraging empathy among children is key to tackling radicalisation.

Speakers at the two-day event at NUI Galway are outlining measures governments and policymakers need to take, to counter isolation and encourage greater understanding.

Professor Pat Dolan, from the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, said that youth radicalisation was not driven solely by the internet but was mainly an issue of identity and belonging.

He said the teaching of empathy needed to be taken as seriously as courses in languages and mathematics, as it was proven to bring real changes to the way in which people interact and understand each other.

Professor Dolan said that extremism could be counteracted and that there was an onus on the Department of Education to put specific course content in place to promote empathy. 

Mark Brennan from Pennsylvania State University in the US outlined how the absence of social supports can lead to radicalisation. 

He said the approach being promoted at the conference was essentially a very simplistic but effective one. If people can be shown the impact of their actions on others, it can lead to understanding and subsequent changes in behaviour. 

Separately, former CIA director John Brennan has said no country should feel immune from a terrorist attack or having terrorists use their country for "whatever purposes".

He said he knew the Irish leadership was aware of the need to "stay vigilant" and that British police have close relationships with the gardaÍ, frequently sharing information.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Brennan said that we should not be fearful to the point of limiting freedom and liberties that were hard fought for in the West.

He praised counter terrorism officials across the world who, he said, have stopped a lot of attacks.