Thursday 14 December 2017

Crucial weapons in battle against crime and terrorism will disappear

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is not the only crucial weapon that will disappear from the armoury used jointly by An Garda Síochána and the police forces in Northern Ireland and Britain as they combat the dangers posed by terrorism and serious crime.

The effectiveness of the close policing co-operation that exists at present on this island as well as with our British neighbours will be severely threatened unless arrangements are quickly put in place to provide alternatives.

In his detailed submission to the House of Lords in London, PSNI chief constable George Hamilton has sent a timely warning of what could happen post Brexit.

He pointed out that almost half of organised crime gangs in the North had a cross-Border dimension, while dissident republicans used the Border to frustrate counter terrorism efforts.

Despite the fall-off in terror attacks in recent years, the threat level posed by renegade republicans remains as severe in the North and slightly lower at "substantial" in Britain.

The EAW has been the cornerstone of extradition agreements between the two jurisdictions for more than a decade.

It replaced cumbersome extradition arrangements, which regularly ran into legal difficulties in the courts.

It has been used effectively to extradite suspects facing charges for criminal and terrorist offences between Ireland and other EU countries since 2004.

Brexit means that the EAW will no longer apply to the UK if a deal cannot be struck in negotiations.

It also spells an end to the UK's involvement in Eurodac, which is the fingerprint database for identifying asylum seekers and irregular border crossers.

All EU member states take part in Eurodac since it was set up in 2013, along with Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

The big problem currently is the indecision shown by the British government since the public opted to pull out of the EU.

The stalemate there, however, has not prevented Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald from underlining Ireland's position.

In recent talks with the chief Brexit negotiator for the European Commission, Michel Barnier, she made clear that a significant amount of information was currently being transferred across the EU to help prevent terrorism and organised crime and that exchange, as well as policing and judicial co-operation, must continue.

Senior gardaí say they could do without the uncertainty that will exist for at least the next two years before negotiations conclude.

Since the EAW was introduced, more than 1,100 incoming warrants have been executed. Last year alone Ireland received 176 warrants.

Irish Independent

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