Bandit country needs 'robust' joint police force to fight crime
IRA godfather Thomas 'Slab' Murphy continues to control a huge criminal empire in the bandit country of South Armagh despite being convicted of tax evasion, security sources have revealed.
The Irish Independent has been told "very little has changed" in the Provo boss's multi-million-euro fuel laundering and smuggling operations along the Border where garda numbers have been allowed to dwindle in recent years.
Security sources have confirmed Murphy continued to thrive throughout the eight years since he was first charged with tax evasion and for which he was convicted in the Special Criminal Court last week.
During that time a number of separate financial investigations by the Criminal Assets Bureau and the PSNI have been launched and are still ongoing.
Both the PSNI and the Gardaí are now concerned the conviction could lead to a split between Murphy's IRA associates and Sinn Féin because they believed they were going to be "left alone" to run their rackets without police interference.
Murphy and his IRA hardliners, who are believed to have considerable influence over Sinn Féin, are furious he was tried for tax evasion and is now facing a possible jail term.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, his deputy Mary Lou McDonald, and Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness have been accused of hypocrisy and double standards after springing to Murphy's defence.
Senior security sources say there is concern a rift is developing between Murphy's IRA associates and Sinn Féin which could seriously jeopardise their hope of big electoral gains in the new year.
"The truth is that Murphy and his associates have been allowed to prosper and thrive in return for supporting the peace process which has made them believe that they are untouchable," a senior security source said.
"Murphy and the hard men he controls have no intention of retiring from their criminal enterprises and they want to be left alone to do what they want.
"Sinn Féin has no choice but to stand by them by condemning the courts and the judiciary which exposes the connections with organised crime, which is hugely embarrassing for a supposedly democratic party," the source added.
The recent announcement of the establishment of a cross-border Garda-PSNI task force to target the bandit country of South Armagh is also concerning Murphy's organisation.
This too has exposed Sinn Féin's double standards because the party has had no choice but to give it full support.
Meanwhile, gardaí based along the border in the north-east say they do not have the resources or personnel to adequately police the border where gangs are able to roam freely.
The murders of gardaí Tony Golden and Adrian Donohoe in Co Louth in less than three years has also had a detrimental effect on morale among their colleagues. In the Cavan/ Monaghan Division garda numbers have dropped by over 20pc in recent years with local sources revealing that most of the time there is no police presence on the border.
"A well-resourced and robust joint police agency, with tough laws behind it, is the only way that the fuel laundering and smuggling operations will be tackled," a security source said.
"But South Armagh has been bandit country for a very long time and unless this operation is focused and sustained over an indefinite period it will simply not work."