The murder of second garda leads to a 'corridor of lawlessness' in border area
The death of a second garda in the Garda District of Dundalk is being seen as further evidence of what gardaí have been quietly describing as a 'disastrous' reduction in gardaí and PSNI numbers along the Border.
There is now what one senior figure described as a 'corridor of lawlessness' along the Border which once had 38 operational stations along its hundred-mile length. This has been reduced to a handful of 'full-time' stations between Derry, Enniskillen, Monaghan and Dundalk.
The area has seen a boom in all sorts of crime since the ending of the Troubles, as former terrorist groups - both loyalist and republican - embarked on building crime empires.
Small-time gangs of robbers and extortionists also sprung up as police were withdrawn in large numbers from both sides of the border.
On the northern side, policing has been reduced to what one PSNI source described as 'skeleton' levels, due to reductions in resources imposed in recent years.
This was seen at the time of the Det Garda Adrian Donohoe murder when the culprits were able to drive unheeded into the south Armagh area, burn their car and escape into the countryside where they were protected by local families, including one with very close links to the local IRA leadership.
Almost 20 gardaí have been murdered in the course of their duties in the past half-century, most of them by the IRA or its off-shoots.
Yesterday evening's scene, however, was not believed to be linked to any terrorist or organised criminal but seemed more likely linked to a domestic siege, or 'barrier-type' incident as it is known to gardaí.
The murder of Det Gda Donohoe in Dundalk, only a few miles from the scene of yesterday's murder, was preceded by a number of incidents in which gardaí have been murdered while performing their duties.
In July 1999, Sergeant John Callanan died after he was doused with petrol and set on fire by a deranged man in the foyer of Tallaght Garda Station. Another Garda Sergeant, John Joe O'Connor, was shot and killed while protecting his son from another deranged man in Tralee, Co Kerry.
Det Sergeant John Eiffe (40) was killed when he was struck from a ricochet of a bullet during a confrontation with armed bank robbers in Abbeyleix, Co Laois, in December 2001.
Twelve gardaí were murdered by the IRA and another five killed by off-shoot republican terror groups during the Troubles.
The last officer to be murdered by the IRA was Det Garda Jerry McCabe, who was shot dead as he carried out a routine protection patrol for a cash-in-transit van in Adare, Co Limerick in June 1996.
Along the border, and in south Armagh, the open and massive local fuel smuggling business has gone virtually unhindered since the so-called IRA ceasefires and the 2006 'order to dump arms'.
This was followed by the IRA's October 2008 murder of innocent local man Paul Quinn (21) by an IRA squad - a murder that has gone unsolved due, gardaí say, to a 'wall of silence' erected by republicans in south Armagh.
In the aftermath of the Det Garda Donohoe murder, gardaí increased patrolling for several months but no significant extra resources were allocated to border stations, where crime has been rising steadily in the past two decades.
The failure to arrest and charge Gda Donohoe's killers has been described by one senior source as 'the greatest disaster' in the recent history of the force in that, in his view, sent out a message that gardaí can be killed with little prospect of arrest or charge.
Last night's murder followed the stabbing to death of a Dundalk taxi driver, Martin Mulligan (53) at Carnmore, on the outskirts of Dundalk on September 27.
No one has been charged with this murder.
The lack of policing and the massive illicit smuggling industry in the eastern border area was highlighted earlier this year in a report to the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, which voted to support the establishment of a cross-border police and customs task force to tackle organised crime in the region.
This idea has been rejected by the Revenue Commissioners who say 'existing' structures are satisfactory.
However, gardaí and PSNI sources both say there is a major problem with cross-border policing, as rather than build on district and divisional close operational structures that existed during the Troubles, both forces have effectively withdrawn inwards away from the border.
On the southern side, gardaí are critical of the structure of the Garda's 'Northern Region', which is supposed to cover Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth, with its headquarters in Sligo.