Belfast Telegraph

Group accuses PSNI and Garda of failing to deal with border drug gangs

The Garda Commissioner Drew Harris
The Garda Commissioner Drew Harris

By Staff Reporter

Not enough is being done to fight crime in border areas, with drug dealers going about their business "with practical immunity", according to a frontier community group.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, a spokesman for Border Communities against Brexit (BCAB) said that police inaction on the dealers was undermining support for policing north and south of the border.

Cash machines have also been a favourite target of criminals along the border.

In Northern Ireland the Omagh, Fintona, Camlough, Keady, Dungannon and Irvinestown areas have all been targeted by thieves using heavy construction equipment to wrench the machines from retail forecourts and convenience stores.

A spate of burglaries in border areas including Strabane, Castlederg, Londonderry and Enniskillen has also sparked calls for better cross-border police action.

"I don't see the Garda or the PSNI tackling the drug dealers," the spokesman said.

"Everybody in the community knows who they are. We talk to our elected representatives, and they talk to the police.

"The police know who the big drug dealers are, but we don't see them being arrested or their assets seized and them being asked how they can afford an £80k car, a house and a lavish lifestyle while having no visible means of support.

"Surely that's basic policing?"

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris recently rejected accusations that the border region is becoming a lawless zone.

Mr Harris, a former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable whose policeman father was murdered by the IRA, commented after four men were charged in connection with the savage kidnapping and torture of Quinn Industrial Holdings director, Fermanagh man Kevin Lunney.

It marked the most shocking development in a crime wave on both sides of the border.

Earlier this year a Sinn Fein TD had his car burned out in Co Leitrim, while Emyvale Garda Station in Co Monaghan was subjected to an arson attack.

The BCAB spokesman added: "The border communities support the police. But when you see people who we know are dealing in drugs and are getting very wealthy and can go about their business with practical immunity, people are asking: 'What's going on here?' That's what undermining confidence in policing north and south."

Garda capability along the border has been beefed up in recent months. In September an armed unit was set up in Cavan, joining two other armed units based at Ballyshannon and Dundalk.

A Garda spokeperson said: "Senior Garda management is satisfied that an adequate policing service continues to be delivered and that current structures in place meet the requirement to deliver an effective and efficient policing service to communities in border areas.

"Since recommencement of recruitment in 2017, the overall number of gardai in the border region has increased by 190, with approximately 1,500 gardai deployed in the border regions."

They added that the recent establishment of the first ever Garda-PSNI Joint Investigation Team involving EU cross-border crimefighters in Eurojust "is a very significant and positive development in keeping communities safe in border areas".

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