Thursday 19 September 2019

Senior gardaí tell of 'concern' over lack of a plan for Border

DUP leader Arlene Foster at a PSNI roadblock in Co Fermanagh. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
DUP leader Arlene Foster at a PSNI roadblock in Co Fermanagh. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Paul Williams and Kevin Doyle

Senior gardaí have expressed "serious concern" that with just two months to go before Brexit no strategic policing plan has been drawn up to provide for increased security along a hard Border.

And they believe the Office of Public Works, which maintains all State-owned properties, has been instructed by Government not to undertake any refurbishment of garda stations in the Border region until after October 31 in case it could be perceived as acknowledging a no-deal Brexit crash-out is expected.

The Irish Independent understands Garda authorities estimate an extra 150 gardaí will be required to provide extra patrols in the event of a "soft post-Brexit Border".

However, the sources have confirmed a hard Border would require many times that number if gardaí were to adequately cover the 300 crossings along the frontier.

A senior source revealed: "There is serious concern across the board that they [Government] appear to be in denial about the security implications of a no-deal Brexit and the general message throughout the [Garda] organisation is 'don't mention the war'.

"If a major policing plan is in place for a worst-case scenario, then it is known only to a very small group of people and has not been discussed with divisional chief superintendents and superintendents in the area. The divisions in the Border region are already on their knees for basic transport and accommodation and we have not recovered from the drop in personnel that happened since the recession kicked in."

The Government meanwhile is still determined there will be no Garda, military or customs checks at the Border.

There are fears smuggling will become "big money" - but gardaí will be expected to police this without routine checkpoints on the Border.

Sources say keeping the Border open while protecting the single market will have to involve a lot of co-operation from businesses and farmers.

Both gardaí and the PSNI have already briefed it would be impossible to establish a 'hard Border'. But in discussions with the EU Commission, the Government has accepted there will have to be some form of monitoring and checks on goods coming in.

A Government source said: "There could be chaos on November 1 because some of this will have to be figured out in practice rather than on paper."

The commission is studying the possibility of allowing checks to take place at the "point of arrival". This is likely to involve veterinary checks at factories and other food-processing facilities.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department said: "As part of the general increase in Garda recruitment and resourcing, additional Garda resources have been deployed to Border areas in recent months and this process is continuing. A total of 1,494 gardaí were deployed in the Northern Region as of July 31, along with 150 Garda staff and 56 Garda reserves. This includes a total of 50 probationers who were assigned to the Northern Region in June of this year. In total, there are now more than 150 additional gardaí deployed in the Northern Region compared to the position at the end of 2017.

"Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under constant review. Planning is also currently in train for the establishment of a new Regional Armed Support Unit based in Cavan.

"There are over 560 stations and facilities in the State. Refurbishment or replacement of these is carried out in a planned and structured manner.

"There is close and ongoing co-operation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI on all aspects of policing, with a particular focus on combating security threats and cross-Border crime."

Irish Independent

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