Cross-border co-operation hailed
Unprecedented levels of co-operation between Garda and the PSNI have seen lives saved and more criminals caught on both sides of the border, police chiefs said.
Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott hailed the working relationship as they launched a new strategy to develop links further.
The Cross Border Policing Strategy is supported by the Republic's Department of Justice and Law Reform and Stormont's Department of Justice.
The blueprint reflects the desire of both law and order agencies to see more routine and faster transfer of evidence, improved communication channels for officers and the ability to bring more prosecutions against individuals for crimes committed in the neighbouring jurisdiction. As well as the obvious cross-border element to tackling dissident republicanism, both services work together to thwart human trafficking and smuggling.
Commissioner Murphy, whose force has thwarted a number of alleged dissident republican bomb plots planned for Northern Ireland in recent months, explained the rationale behind the strategy
"Terrorism, serious and organised crime, and local crime strike fear into the heart of communities and know no boundaries," he said. "It is therefore increasingly important that law enforcement agencies work in partnership to achieve the shared objective of keeping all of our communities safe. In recent months, through sharing information and intelligence, and by putting in place joint policing operations, many instances of terrorism, serious and organised crime and local crime have been prevented. This has undoubtedly saved lives, while ensuring those involved in such activity are identified and brought to justice."
Chief Constable Matt Baggott added: "I am deeply indebted to my colleagues in An Garda Siochana for the level of support and co-operation the PSNI receives on a daily basis. In the current climate it is even more pertinent for police officers to be able to utilise the experience, knowledge and technological capabilities available across both jurisdictions, to the best possible effect.
"The Cross Border Policing Strategy seeks to build on the existing co-operation and enhance the policing capabilities of both Police Services. Even stronger alliances in relation to cross border investigations and operations, intelligence sharing and security right through to communication and information technology, training and emergency planning will benefit both organisations. Over the next three years, we will work to implement objectives linked to such aspects."
Welcoming the strategy, the Republic's Minister for Justice and Law Reform Dermot Ahern TD said: "I want to thank the Garda Commissioner and Chief Constable and their officers for the hard work that has gone into this new initiative, and for the hard work that underpins the North-South policing cooperation that it exemplifies.
"Those of us who hail from the border area understand better than most the importance of ensuring that the border does not present a barrier to the wellbeing and quality of life of those who reside on either side. I welcome this initiative not just for its breadth and its setting out of targets to be achieved, but for the commitment to accountability and continuous improvement it represents."