Belfast Telegraph

Brexit 'could stretch gardai on Irish border to breaking point'

By Kevin Doyle

Front line gardai have warned they may not have the resources to combat cross-border terrorism and crime in the event of a hard Brexit.

Officers say the threat posed by dissident republicans, armed vigilantes and criminal gangs will be exacerbated if a physical border is re-established.

Low level traffic offenders are now prepared to "risk lives" along the border, knowing that they are unlikely to be caught due to a lack of Garda numbers.

As members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), James Morrisroe from Cavan and Brenda O'Connor from Donegal speak for rank-and-file officers in the border region.

The concerns they raise make for stark reading for the Irish Government and politicians in Northern Ireland, who have little real say in Brexit since the collapse of the Assembly.

"The simple fact is at the moment there are not enough Garda members to effectively police the large rural area surrounding the border," the officers wrote in an article for today's Irish Independent.

"We are at breaking point and at times are struggling to respond to some incidents.

"A hard border Brexit outcome one imagines would certainly place an intolerable strain on the already depleted resources. It would simply be unsustainable at current levels."

Warning that community policing had been dismantled due to cuts by Dublin, the officers claimed that their colleagues were often left isolated when responding to suspected crimes.

The officers said that the pressures and dangers associated with border policing were being exacerbated by historically low numbers of officers in Donegal. "Members are out there - day and night - facing dissidents, criminals and armed vigilantes based north of the border," the officers stated.

"During one shift recently, officers listened to four separate cross-border pursuits on their radio. Years ago it was serious criminals. Now low level road traffic offenders are happy to risk lives because they know the gardai simply aren't out there anymore.

"There have been numerous incidents close to the border in Strabane and Derry in recent years involving dissident republicans, which have included attempts to murder our PSNI colleagues.

"Our members face the danger of coming across these people and they are being left isolated - working in this environment with less back-up than ever before.

"Ten years ago, when such incidents were fewer and there were more gardai, we could scramble members armed with Uzi sub-machine guns locally.

"That capability is gone."

The officers said that any suggestion that gardai had any capacity to provide additional policing functions as a result of Brexit "is fanciful", as the force struggles to provide a basic service.

"Any commitment to border security or immigration will have to be funded through huge investment and training, otherwise the thin blue line, which is hanging by a thread, will snap," they stated.

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