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PSNI chief Hamilton clarifies remarks on Gardai and immigration

By Colm Kelpie

The Chief Constable has moved to "clarify" comments he made suggesting immigration controls were weaker in the Republic than Northern Ireland - claiming he has no concerns about the commitment of the Gardai.

George Hamilton had told a Westminster committee last month that immigration controls into the Republic may not have the same resources or focus as Northern Ireland - a claim dismissed by the Irish government.

Mr Hamilton had been giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in December as it examined the potential effects of Brexit on Northern Ireland and the Republic.

He said 775 people had been detained at Northern Ireland ports last year.

"I think it would be fair to say that immigration controls into the Republic of Ireland may not have the same resources or focus that we would be seeing in Northern Ireland," he added.

Now, in a letter to the committee which has been copied to the Irish Justice Minister and Garda Commissioner, Mr Hamilton noted that the Republic, unlike the UK, does not have access to the Schengen Information System. This allows police and border guards across the EU to exchange information and see alerts about certain categories of wanted criminals or missing people.

The UK has access, but due to the financial crisis, plans in the Republic to develop the infrastructure to tap into the system had to be shelved.

However, Mr Hamilton noted that this is due to change when gardai gain access to the database for the first time next year.

"While Ireland is not currently a signatory to Schengen, and does not have access to the data base at present, this is due to change," Mr Hamilton wrote.

"At no point have I had any concerns, nor did I wish to convey any concerns, regarding the commitment of An Garda Siochana in preventing and detecting criminals operating on the island of Ireland."

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