Home > Seanad Eireann debate: Europol Bill 2012: Second stage (Continued).

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate: Europol Bill 2012: Second stage (Continued). (29 Nov 2012)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...

….Senator Denis O'Donovan: I welcome the Minister and the Bill's proposals as set out in the legislation. Given what the Garda Commissioner said at the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in respect of criminal gangs in Ireland, of which there are 25, there is a huge issue at international level as they are obviously transgressing borders. He mentioned communications and contacts with the Russian mafia and African crime gangs, and communications in the Middle East with established gangs. Therefore, it is imperative for Ireland, as a small island on the periphery of Europe, to be involved in Europol and Interpol and in getting as much international support as possible. 

I had a question for the Minister who has left the House. He mentioned a liaison officer who need not necessarily be a member of the Garda Síochána but could be a person from the Revenue Commissioners. Would it be possible for an officer of the PSNI to be a liaison officer and, if not, why?
There were a series of major drug confiscations off the coastline of west Cork, the region where I am lucky to live. One of these confiscations involved a huge consignment of drugs found in Dunlough Bay off the Mizen Peninsula. A number of members of that gang are serving long-term prison sentences. The second was a yacht with a consignment of cocaine from South America which was brought, almost at sinking point, into Castletownbere.
In the Dunlough Bay incident, although many people claimed credit for it, the fact is the criminals involved were out at dawn of day and left my home village of Kilcrohane having put diesel into a petrol engine. Had that not happened, as sure as night follows day, they would have headed off to London with their huge consignment of drugs. I made the point at meetings of Cork County Council many years ago that west Cork was, and still is, a gateway for huge consignments of drugs coming through this country, not necessarily for the Irish market. That is where the Bill, Interpol and international co-operation can be successful.
In the second incident, where the consignment of drugs came in by yacht to Castletownbere, having been monitored from 50 miles out to sea by the Irish Naval Service, an eye in the sky, so to speak, in some part of Spain or Portugal, was able to track the yacht and, through communication, transmit its precise location from when it left South America all the way to Irish waters. That proves how international co-operation prevented a major consignment of drugs getting to our shores. Irrespective of whether it was the intention to land them in Ireland or the UK, we must be ever vigilant and alert in that regard. Cigarette smuggling is another area where co-operation can help as well as in the areas of human trafficking, prostitution and so on.
To return to the Dunlough Bay consignment of drugs, it is ironic that three of the culprits who are serving long-term prison sentences in Portlaoise Prison were detected, caught and arrested by local gardaí. Unfortunately, the Garda station at Goleen has since closed and Ballydehob Garda station is basically unmanned. I think the Garda Commissioner told the joint committee last week there was no economic consideration on savings - or, if so, it was trivial - in the closure of rural Garda stations. One of the gardaí who was in plain clothes got a tip-off from a farmer. Were it not for vigilance, an hour later they would have slipped through the net and would have been gone. The closure of rural Garda stations has a negative impact on rural communities.
There is concern in regard to the whole area of policing. It may not be fair to lob these grenades at the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, as it was the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, I was planning to ambush, but he has taken leave. There is concern about the issue of Garda numbers……
Thursday 29 November

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