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Tuesday 19 November 2019

Working relationship between police north and south of border is seamless – senior officer

David Young

The working relationship between police on both sides of the Irish border is now seamless, a senior officer has claimed.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said the PSNI and Garda shared information and intelligence on a daily basis.

His assessment of the enhanced inter-force co-operation was shared by Garda Deputy Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan.

The high-ranking officers were joined today by Stormont justice minister David Ford and Irish justice minister Alan Shatter at the annual cross-border crime seminar, which this year was staged in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

Mr Harris said his officers were involved in joint operations with the Garda every week to tackle crime gangs, many of which had dissident republican links.

"In a very practical manner we work very closely day to day to make sure we are sharing information, sharing intelligence but also sharing our resources around joint investigations and parallel investigations into serious crimes and into organised crime groups and that's ongoing work and it's very important work," he said.

"We see constantly that this (organised crime) is becoming more and more of an international problem.

"The island of Ireland is seen as a target in its entirety and we have to respond completely seamlessly to this threat and that's what we are doing, keep driving this through.

"Every week in effect we are involved in some form of cross-border active operation."

Deputy Commissioner O'Sullivan added: "The day to day co-operation that we have ongoing with the PSNI and other partners in law enforcement agencies, the ministers, is transnational - it's the transnational nature of crime, so day to day we see those operations and those relationships developing even further."

Mr Harris said the threat from dissident republicans remained severe, despite a reduction in the number of attacks this year.

"Obviously, we want to cut off their financial supply and that's why we are focusing very much on organised crime and they are involved in a wide range of organised crime endeavours around smuggling," he said.

"We want to cut those funds away from them."

The regions' justice ministers both hailed co-operative work to tackle organised crime and the dissident threat.

Mr Ford said: "The threat level in Northern Ireland remains severe.

"What we have seen in recent months is extremely good work being done led by the PSNI but in co-operation with other agencies to bear down on dissident terrorists but there is no doubt the aspiration remains for them.

"It's good policing which has stopped them taking actions."

Mr Shatter said he preferred to refer to the so-called dissidents as "criminal terrorists".

"It's extraordinarily unfortunate and a tragedy for this island that we still have individuals who are committed to acts of violence, who want to turn the clock back, who want to destroy what has been achieved," he said.

"You just sometimes wonder what some of these people are going to say in the future to their grandchildren -that their so-called heroics involved trying to shoot people, (that they) engaged in extortion, engaged in fuel laundering, engaged in tobacco smuggling.

"These are individuals that both police forces on both sides of this island are targeting, are targeting very successfully, and will continue to do so and I hope that eventually the message gets across that they cannot achieve any of their objectives and that there's an overwhelming support for the police forces - both the Garda Siochana and the PSNI - for what they are doing."

The seminar in the Killyhevlin Hotel offered representatives from government and law enforcement agencies in both jurisdictions the chance to share ideas and develop future plans.

It focused on various areas of organised criminal activity, including drug dealing, fuel smuggling, cybercrime, human trafficking, tobacco fraud and vehicle crime.

The event also saw the publication of the annual Organised Crime Assessment, which outlines efforts to tackle the criminals and cross-border successes.

"This report provides a valuable analysis of the nature and extent of cross-border organised crime, the real dangers created by it and how law enforcement partners are dealing with these challenges," said Mr Harris.

"But I believe our most important, collective challenge is to change community attitudes towards organised crime.

"When you buy dodgy cigarettes, cheap fuel or counterfeit goods, you are providing funds for organised crime - for drugs gangs, for human trafficking, for terrorism.

"There is a clear link between money generated from these illegal commodities and organised crime.

"People need to understand the link between their own actions and the fight against organised crime.

"By saying 'No', by providing information to the authorities, people can help law enforcement agencies who are working to keep them safe."

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