independent

Saturday 23 August 2014

Minister, quit the panto and tackle border lawlessness

ARGUS COMMENT

Published 29/05/2013 | 05:20

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If Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter could divert his attention from the media pantomime of the past week, over whether Mick Wallace was on his mobile phone at a junction or whether he himself could blow into a breathylser, for just a moment, perhaps he could focus his attention on the serious challenge to the forces of authority in this area.

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In the past four months there have now been two direct challenges to the authority of the State: firstly with the murder of a member of the Gardaí, and now an incredible raid on Defence Forces property.

Law and order has the respect of 99.9% of this community, but there are others, a tiny minority, who seem hell bent on challenging that authority to their own selfish, criminal ends.

The audacious raid on Aiken Barracks last Sunday morning would be comical if it were not so serious.

Certainly I imagine there was skin and hair flying in Aiken Barracks on Sunday morning after a seized lorry with a load of diesel smashed through the metal gates and past armed sentries in the guardhouse.

That one or more persons would break into an army barracks under the cover of darkness, locate and start up the seized vehicle without detection and then drive it past the guardhouse and through locked metal gates beggars belief, and raises serious questions about the security at the army base.

However, in recent months the pattern of sinister crime in this area has reached a level not witnessed since the days of the troubles.

We will never forget the cold blooded murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe when carrying out escort duty in late January.

While there is impatience in the community to see the killers arrested and brought to justice there is also a growing acceptance that the gardaí seem to know their identities and are patiently and methodically going about gathering the evidence to ensure their investigation concludes in successful convictions.

These two serious instances aside, the pattern of crime and lack of Garda resources in this area must be focused upon and cannot be seen in isolation.

Just two weeks ago, seven houses in the Cooley and Ravensdale area were broken into over the space of a couple of hours. All these raids happened on a summer's morning. The front doors were kicked in and the houses ransacked.

All the while diesel laundering and the dumping of toxic sludge continues apace, despite, it has to be acknowledged, increased levels of detection by Revenue officials.

Garda resources are stretched to the limit, personnel numbers are down right across this division, the number of Garda patrol cars has been dramatically cut and members of the force have themselves stated publicly on national radio that the border has not been properly policed in years.

The authority of this state and the legitimate forces of law and order have been challenged by last weekend's theft of the seized diesel truck. The fuel launderers clearly feel they are untouchable and can even strike back to recover a seized truck from the deep within an army base.

It is time the Minister stopped playing Punch and Judy with Mick Wallace and Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, supported his gardaí and focused on delivering a strategy to show that the authority of the State is cast iron in north Louth and will not be subverted by any criminal gangs ever more emboldened by a low morale and inadequate resources in the gardaí in particular.

The Argus

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