Belfast Telegraph

Irish TD rejects Hamilton's poor border control claims

By David Young

An Irish government minister has dismissed claims from the PSNI Chief Constable that weak immigration checks in the Republic give foreign criminals an easy route into the UK.

Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Charlie Flanagan TD said George Hamilton's comments were not well-founded.

On Tuesday, Mr Hamilton told a Westminster watchdog that controls in the Republic of Ireland did not have the same "resource or focus" as those operating here.

The Chief Constable made the comments while being questioned by members of the Commons' Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on the future of the Irish border post-Brexit.

When asked how international criminals were entering the UK and the Republic of Ireland, Mr Hamilton said: "Access into the Republic of Ireland may not have the resource assigned to it or the immigration checks we would have in Northern Ireland, or indeed more broadly into the United Kingdom."

The Chief Constable highlighted that 775 people had been detained at Northern Ireland ports in the past year. He also stressed: "I think it would be fair to say that immigration controls into the Republic of Ireland may not have the same resource or focus that we would be seeing in Northern Ireland."

Asked about the PSNI commander's comments on a visit to Belfast yesterday, Mr Flanagan said: "The remarks of the Chief Constable have got to be placed in the broader context of relations between the PSNI and An Garda Siochana being at the most positive and closest ever in terms of sharing of information and working together. Issues in terms of immigration are Dublin/London issues. I don't believe his remarks are well-founded."

Mr Flanagan highlighted that the Irish government had committed additional resources to the Garda to bolster co-operation in tackling cross-border crime.

With regards to the situation post-Brexit, minister Flanagan added: "A priority on the part of Irish government will be to ensure the maintenance of the current invisible border across a range of issues, not only in respect of security and immigration, but also in terms of business and commerce.

"This will be a priority of the Irish government in the context of the negotiations."

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