Border crime force urged to investigate owners of mansions
An Irish council has called on a north-south taskforce being set up to tackle paramilitary crime to take a closer look at the financial backgrounds of people living in border mansions.
Cavan County Council spoke out about the problem after providing evidence of the impact of the rackets on its local economy to the Irish Government.
The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, which came up with the concept of a cross-border force last February, will push for speedy action when it reviews developments in Belfast next month.
A senior official said last night: "These lucrative illegal activities cannot be tolerated any longer, and the only way forward is through a joint taskforce.
"There are 34 border crossings in the Dundalk garda district alone, and it is impossible to mount a proper policing operation unless you have coordinated action involving all agencies."
Security chiefs are calling for a greater police presence in republican-dominated areas such as Crossmaglen in south Armagh, where officers are confined mainly to fortress-type stations and their movements are limited compared to the gardai.
Intelligence reports prepared on the problem insisted that the rackets were controlled by a number of extended families with links to the Provisional republican movement, as well as dissident republicans and associated criminal gangs.
The reports also indicated that a "small hardcore group" comprising renegade republicans diverted their profits from the illegal cigarette trade in Ireland towards terrorism.
A number of convicted subversives are also behind a portion of the cigarette trade and have links to dissident groups.
Depending on the success rate of the joint taskforce, the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly could hold further discussions on a recommendation - revealed by the Irish Independent last year - for the creation of a strictly-controlled border corridor that would allow police in Northern Ireland and the Republic to chase fleeing criminals and terrorists.
The new joint taskforce will be led by senior officers from the PSNI and Garda and will also involve revenue and customs officers on both sides.
Other bodies set to be involved include the environmental protection agencies on both sides of the border, the Republic's Criminal Assets Bureau and the UK National Crime Agency.