Thursday 20 June 2019

Armed Garda units posted on 24-hour Border patrol

  • Armed support units will shortly be deployed around the clock in the Border region
  • Plans being finalised by Garda chiefs to deal with the Brexit fallout
  • Gardaí facing the threat of renewed violence from dissidents
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Stock picture
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Armed support units will shortly be deployed around the clock in the Border region, under plans being finalised by Garda chiefs to deal with the Brexit fallout.

Training has almost been completed for additional officers to expand two existing units in order to allow them to provide a 24-hour armed service.

Meanwhile, more than one-third of all probationers graduating out of the Garda College this week will be allocated to the four divisions in the Border region. The Irish Independent understands some 70 of the 200 graduating from Templemore will be sent to these divisions.

But senior officers along the Border are concerned that there will not be enough experienced personnel to cope with the extra workload that will arise after Brexit.

Gardaí are facing the threat of renewed violence from dissidents, and the ongoing activities of criminal gangs that are determined to exploit any fresh opportunities that could emerge.

There is also expected to be an increase in the flow of asylum seekers into the country. The Government has been eager to avoid panic when it comes to the matter of policing the Border after Brexit.

The stance in political circles is to play the long game in terms of security reaction rather than opt for a strong numerical response in policing.

Among the major developments on this side of the Border are the plans being finalised by Garda chiefs to deploy armed support units on a round-the-clock basis.

Existing units are based in Dundalk and Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, and it is expected that a third unit, to be located in Cavan, will be in place later in the year to provide further cover.

The Garda authorities had decided last year that a third unit was necessary - but planning was fast-tracked because of fears of a hard Brexit.

Additional Garda Special Branch patrols are already operating in the region to monitor the movements of suspected republican dissidents.

Meanwhile, an estimated 70 probationers out of around 200 to graduate from the Garda College this Friday will be sent to the four divisions - Donegal, Sligo-Leitrim, Cavan-Monaghan and Louth - in the Border region.

The Government has taken the view that the current recruitment campaign, which should produce an extra 600 gardaí from the college this year, will be sufficient to allow the authorities to carry out any redeployments of personnel believed necessary.

The view this side of the Border is in contrast to the PSNI where Chief Constable George Hamilton is recruiting an extra 308 officers and staff to deal with Brexit. The PSNI has been handed an additional £16.5m (€19.2m) to fund the recruitment of the extra officers along with improvements to IT and infrastructure.

However, senior officers in the region, and their representative associations, are worried that existing resources could become overstretched.

They are warning that there is no surplus elsewhere that could facilitate a beefing up of numbers along the Border from the current strength.

A car bomb explosion outside a courthouse in Derry city last January underlined the threat posed by the New IRA, which is regarded by police on both sides of the Border as the most lethal republican terror faction to emerge since the Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire more than two decades ago.

The discovery of arms dumps near Omeath on the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth is a further reminder that the dissidents still possess the explosives and weapons to mount a fresh terrorist campaign.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has sent mixed messages on Border security over recent months.

Speaking in Templemore last November, he said that the Government had no contingency plans for policing the Border in the event of a hard Brexit.

"We're going to continue to expand the force over the next couple of years and how gardaí are deployed is, of course, a matter for the commissioner," he said at the time.

"But we will take into account any changes that may arise because of Brexit and we also need to make sure we have very close co-operation with the PSNI.

"That co-operation is as good as it ever has been."

But then in January, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Varadkar warned of the need "for cameras, physical infrastructure, possibly a police presence, or an Army presence to back it up".

The strength of the Taoiseach's comments at the event in Switzerland caused controversy back in Ireland, and the Government scrambled to clarify.

A spokesman said the Taoiseach had said that the Government was "determined to avoid a no-deal scenario and the consequent risk of a hard Border".

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris had also moved to deny plans to deploy 600 gardaí to the Border.

But Mr Varadkar's interview in Davos suggested that police and troops could be needed for a hard Border.

Irish Independent

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