Thursday 17 January 2019

Garda chief warns of Brexit terrorism risk

Senior garda fears surge in smuggling and illegal immigration if no deal struck

BLUE LINE TOO THIN: Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan warned that gardai couldn’t man all the 291 border crossings. Picture: Colin O'Riordan
BLUE LINE TOO THIN: Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan warned that gardai couldn’t man all the 291 border crossings. Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A hard border as a result of Britain crashing out of the EU would be "impossible" to police, a senior garda has warned.

As garda management prepares a report for the Government on the security risks posed by Brexit, Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan, who covers the country's biggest border crossing in Louth, said smuggling and illegal immigration could spike if the worst-case scenario came to pass.

He said gardai did not have enough resources to manage in the event of a hard border with the North.

He also warned that the main route into the North, the M1, would be extremely difficult to police.

Insufficient garda resources and infrastructure that was not fit for purpose would also create challenges, he said.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Chief Supt Mangan said a hard Brexit would "drain" gardai from non-border communities which would have a knock-on effect on crime.

Dissident republicans, although diminished in numbers, remain active in the border region, with some now hiring themselves out as paid bodyguards for drug dealers.

"A hard border will present significant complications. Nobody seems to know exactly what it means. Certainly, on the ground, it hasn't been explained to us what is going to happen if there is a dramatic exit by the UK from the EU," Chief Supt Mangan said.

He added that it would be "impossible" to man each of the 291 crossings along the 500km border. Primary routes would have to be policed.

"If you try and start stopping traffic on the M1, you will have chaos. You will have a lot of difficulties," he said.

The need for additional gardai required appropriate infrastructure. He said Dromad, a "key border position, not alone for Louth but for the whole border", operates from a Portakabin.

"We have a presence in that area obviously. But if there is a hard border, and there is a need for an increase in staffing, that Portakabin is not fit for purpose," he said.

An allocation of extra gardai in the county had allowed him to reopen one station and boost another, he added.

"This gives us the chance to proactively police rather than reactively police and to put gardai back into the community. Brexit will drain those resources from those communities and from other areas in the country," he said.

While the good working relationship gardai had fostered with the PSNI would continue, he said uncertainty over the European arrest warrant and data sharing, post Brexit, were also a cause for concern.

Chief Supt Mangan, who previously warned councillors that a hard Brexit posed a "doomsday" scenario for policing, is the latest senior officer to raise concerns about a hard border. His comments will add to growing fears over Ireland's security should Britain fail to strike a deal with Europe.

The Government has been criticised by opposition parties for failing to produce a plan addressing the security fall-out from a hard Brexit.

The head of the Association of Garda Superintendents, Supt Noel Cunningham, has warned that border crossings will become "crime corridors" and called for officer numbers to be increased.

The Garda Representative Association has also complained that the force is "totally unprepared" for Brexit, warning at least 1,000 extra members would be needed to police the Border.

Garda management is working on a policing plan for various Brexit scenarios but is keeping details under wraps. The issues under examination are understood to include policing resources and infrastructure; the operation of EU arrest warrants; data and information sharing; opportunities for crime and smuggling that Brexit may present in the event of different customs tariffs for goods on either side of the border; and illegal immigration.

A statement from the Garda press office said Deputy Garda Commissioner John Twomey was chairing a "strategic group examining the potential impact of Brexit on policing and this group is liaising with other government departments and agencies, as well as our counterparts in the PSNI".

One of the big concerns of a hard Brexit is the opportunity for increased crime, with criminals poised to capitalise on different tariffs on both sides of the border by smuggling cheaper goods.

A hard border would also present opportunities for tax fraud and immigration, said Chief Supt Mangan.

Dissidents active in border counties were involved in crime, he said. "They are involved in providing support to some of our drug dealers, physical, armed support," he said. "This is funding for them, whether it is for their dissident aims or for their own personal gain."

Chief Supt Mangan said the murders of two gardai, Adrian Donohoe and Tony Golden, in the county, had left colleagues feeling "very vulnerable" to the threat from serious criminals. "I certainly can see the residue of what is left with serving members here," he said.

"Any border offers opportunity to commit crime. Crimes that are unique to the border are theft of livestock, cattle, sheep, plant machinery, stolen cars - a little different to what you'd have in urban settings."

Sunday Independent

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