Saturday 18 November 2017

'Fuel smuggling funds political parties' - TD

Patrick O'Donovan
Patrick O'Donovan
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

A Fine Gael TD has claimed money from cigarette and fuel smuggling is finding its way into the "political process".

Limerick TD Patrick O'Donovan suggested authorities are turning a blind eye to cross border criminal activities because of "appeasement" since the peace process.

Speaking at a British Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) meeting in the Seanad, Mr O'Donovan called on the governments of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK to "stop pussyfooting" around the issue and address it "head on".

"I know where the money that funds the Fine Gael party comes from, everybody knows where it comes from. Everybody knows where the funds for Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party comes from but there are strong question marks over other political parties," he added.

Speaking after the debate, Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff said Mr O'Donovan's comments were a "slur" on his party.

"Sinn Féin has been vociferous in our condemnation of illegal fuel laundering and I reject strongly the allegation made by Deputy Patrick O'Donovan at today's meeting which was nothing more than a political slur," Mr McElduff said.

During the debate, Mr McElduff produced a letter from gardaí which he said confirmed the IRA's military structures had disbanded.

Asked about Mr O'Donovan's comments, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he had not seen evidence to suggest money from illegal activities was ending up in the coffers of political parties.

Yesterday's BIPA meeting followed the publication of a report on cross-border police cooperation in tackling the illegal trade of cigarettes and fuel smuggling. The group recommended the establishment of a multi agency cross border task force to deal with criminal activity in border counties.

It also suggested changing company law so traders of smuggled fuel could not open up new businesses after they have been found to be trading illegal fuel. Senator Paul Coughlan, who chairs the committee that compiled the report, said a dedicated task force was needed because criminals are "working full-time".

Irish Independent

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