Monday 19 August 2019

Weak Irish border controls allow criminals into North - PSNI chief

Northern Ireland’s police chief constable George Hamilton. Photo: PA
Northern Ireland’s police chief constable George Hamilton. Photo: PA

Noel McAdam

Weaker immigration checks on this side of the Border are providing a route for international criminals to enter the UK, Northern Ireland's police chief has said.

George Hamilton said Ireland's controls did not have the same "resource or focus" as those operating in Northern Ireland.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable was being questioned by members of a Westminster committee as part of its inquiry into the future of the Irish Border post-Brexit.

Mr Hamilton told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that a growing number of criminals operating on the island of Ireland were from abroad.

That prompted a question from committee chairman Laurence Robertson on how international gangsters were entering the UK and Ireland.

"How are these people able to access the countries?" he asked. "What is going wrong with border control?"

Mr Hamilton replied: "Access into the Republic of Ireland may not have the resource assigned to it or the immigration checks we would have in Northern Ireland or indeed more broadly into the United Kingdom."

He highlighted that 775 people had been detained at Northern Ireland ports in the past year.

He continued: "I think it would be fair to say that immigration controls into the Republic of Ireland may not have the same resource or focus that we would be seeing."

Meanwhile, First Minister Arlene Foster is prepared to face a grilling from the Northern Ireland Assembly's spending watchdog over a disastrous Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) scheme, if she is invited.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is to convene a special meeting to consider whether to call the First Minister to give evidence on her role in the RHI. The PAC is investigating the RHI furore.

Ministers do not usually appear before the PAC under Assembly conventions. However, its members are to discuss a proposal from SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan that Ms Foster should give evidence.

Irish Independent

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