Belfast Telegraph

Irish border region not ‘lawless zone’, insists Garda commissioner

Drew Harris says the area is well policed despite a series of violent attacks.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aine McMahon PA

The Garda commissioner has rejected accusations Ireland’s border region is becoming a lawless zone following violent attacks.

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

Last month, Kevin Lunney, a director of building products manufacturer Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH), was badly beaten after being abducted from outside his home in Co Fermanagh.

I do not accept that the border area is lawless Drew Harris

When Mr Harris was asked if the border region was becoming a “lawless zone” after the attacks, he said: “I want to address this issue – I do not accept that the border area is lawless.

“I point to the co-operation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and I reiterate the resources we have in the border area and a huge seizure of cannabis in Dundalk yesterday.”

QIH directors received a second death threat on Tuesday telling them this is their “last warning”.

The anonymous authors of the letter sent to the Irish News warn the QIH directors “we could have killed Kevin very easily”.

When asked why they have appeared to have doubled down on their threats, Mr Harris said: “What else would you expect from a criminal gang?  This is the response that we are going to get from them.

“We are working hard, and they know that, and progress will be made.”

He added: “We have increased resources in the border area since 2017, we have located a new armed support unit in Cavan and at the end of November, a further 45 members will be assigned to the border area.”

Mr Harris said posters put up on the border in Co Cavan and Co Fermanagh,  threatening QIH directors will be taken down.

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Charlie Flanagan praised the level of co-operation between the Irish and Northern Irish police forces (Brian Lawless/PA)

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan defended policing of the border region and said there was an “unprecedented” level of co-ordination between the Garda and Police Service of Northern Ireland.

He said: “We have a classic case of an abduction in Northern Ireland and the abandonment of a citizen of our state in the Republic of Ireland.

“There is a high degree of co-operation which is ongoing in Cavan under Superintendent John O’Reilly.”

Speaking at Government Buildings in Dublin on Wednesday, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar moved to reassure the public over the Government’s commitment to security in the border region.

“The lawlessness that’s occurred in border counties in recent weeks – whether it’s the attacks on directors on Quinn Insurance, whether it’s the attack on the Garda station, the attack on public representatives – these are things that we’re taking with utmost seriousness in Government,” he said.

“We must have the rule of law prevail and law and order prevail in all parts of our country.”

PA

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