Gardai and PSNI to chase criminals across border
The creation of a new border corridor is being planned to allow police on both sides to chase fleeing criminals and terrorists.
The corridor will operate along the length of the border from Louth across to Donegal, if it is approved by the two governments. It will allow the Gardaí and the PSNI to pursue suspects for several miles into each other's jurisdictions.
The controversial measure is due to be approved by members of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) when it meets in Cheltenham on Monday and Tuesday.
It has been proposed by the body's influential parliamentary assembly committee on sovereign matters, chaired by Fine Gael senator, Paul Coghlan.
Last February, Mr Coghlan's committee called for the setting up of a cross-border task force.
It was later backed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and adopted by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan. It is now regarded as Government policy.
Other recommendations put forward by Mr Coghlan's committee include a significant increase in police resources in south Armagh and the removal of signs, allegedly erected by the provisional republican movement and giving a phone number for locals to contact if they are experiencing crime problems in their area.
A key member of the British-Irish body told the Irish Independent last night: "We can't have double standards any more.
"It is time for the vestiges of terrorism to be removed from the communities living on both sides of the border."
The latest recommendations will be outlined in detail by the committee on Monday and are expected to be sanctioned by the full body.
It follows a briefing given to the committee by a former senior Garda officer, who was commissioned to produce a report on the illegal cigarette trade and the dissident republican link.
The report shows that dissident republicans and associate criminal gangs control most of the €3m-a-week illegal cigarette trade in Ireland - on both sides of the border.
The dissidents involved include the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, the New IRA and former Provisional IRA activists.
Intelligence suggests that a "small hard-core group", comprised of renegade or dissident republicans, divert the profits towards terrorism.
The two main players are a terrorist based along the border and another located in Spain. Both are former provisionals and are now dissident republicans.
The report says the profits generated from the criminals' illegal trade runs into millions of euro.
Up to a dozen criminal gangs, with links to the dissidents, are currently involved in the highly lucrative black-market trade.
A smuggler, based in Monaghan, organises large-scale shipments on behalf of the two main players while another key figure, living in County Louth, is currently the target of the Criminal Assets Bureau and Customs officials.
He is said to have made a vast fortune, estimated at around €16m, from the trade and has invested his profits in property in Florida.
Cigarette smuggling costs the Irish exchequer €258m a year in lost revenue and around one in every four cigarettes smoked in Ireland has no duty paid on it, according to estimates.
Terrorists and crime gangs are attracted by the lure of easy money and the absence of deterrents.