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[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 80 - Customs and Excise staff [8560/14]. (19 Feb 2014)

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80. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance the number of customs officials assigned to the illegal drug section in counties Mayo and Sligo; the measures taken for the protection of the western seaboard from illegal drug smuggling; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8560/14] 

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their office is an integrated tax and customs administration and it is not feasible to dis-aggregate the staffing resources deployed exclusively on Customs and Excise or drugs enforcement work. The Revenue Commissioners have around 2,000 staff engaged on activities that are dedicated to target and confront non-compliance. These activities include anti-smuggling, audit, assurance checks, debt management, investigations, prosecutions and anti-avoidance.

 

The Revenue Commissioners attach the highest priority to combating the smuggling of controlled drugs and are committed to playing an active role, in conjunction with other relevant agencies, in working against this criminal activity and those responsible for it.

 

Revenue has primary responsibility for the detection, interception and seizure of controlled drugs at points of entry into the State. They maintain an enforcement presence at strategic locations and place particular emphasis on developing an intelligence-based focus at both national and regional level, deploying resources to areas of highest risk. Enforcement strength at particular locations is regularly augmented with additional personnel on a risk-assessment basis, or when particular operations are taking place against illegal activity.

 

Responsibility for controlled drugs interdiction at ports and airports on the West coast is not confined to staff at Sligo and Mayo but is shared among Revenue staff at several locations.  Revenue enforcement officers carry out regular and ongoing monitoring of the coastline, including patrols and physical checks at harbours and piers. This work is supplemented by Revenue's Customs Drug Watch Programme, which incorporates a coastal reporting mechanism. This allows members of the public, maritime and local communities to report, in confidence, suspect or unusual movements at sea or around the coast through a confidential 24/7 free phone facility.

 

Revenue deploys two Customs Cutters, the RCC Suirbhéir and the RCC Faire, to patrol the coastline and undertake maritime intelligence gathering duties. These vessels support teams of land-based enforcement officers involved in anti-smuggling duties. The cutters are deployed to cover potential high-risk areas along the coastline.

 

Revenue has two drug detector dog teams based on the western coast, at Sligo and Shannon, which are deployed over the wider geographical area as necessary. Overall, Revenue has 13 detector dogs at its disposal (8 of which are specifically trained in drugs detection) and these dogs can be deployed to any location as required on a risk-assessment basis.

 

Revenue's Customs service works proactively with An Garda Síochána and the Naval Service in the fight against drug trafficking as part of the Joint Task Force on Drugs Interdiction.  There is excellent cooperation between these agencies in the sharing of intelligence and the identification and investigation of the criminals involved in the illegal drugs trade.

 

The Deputy will be aware that Revenue's overall staff numbers have been reduced in recent years in the context of Government policy on civil service numbers. However, the Revenue Commissioners assure me that their enforcement resources have been prioritised and are reinforced as necessary for particular operations.

 

Revenue's work against drugs crime is extensive and multifaceted and is kept under constant review to ensure that it makes the most effective contribution possible to dealing with this societal problem.

Item Type:Dail Debates
Source:Oireachtas
Date:19 February 2014
EndNote:View
Subjects:MM-MO Crime and law > Substance related offence > Drug offence > Illegal drug possession (seizures)
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland
MM-MO Crime and law > Substance related offence > Drug offence > Illegal transportation of drugs (smuggling / trafficking)
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland > Sligo
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland > Mayo
MM-MO Crime and law > Justice system > Law enforcement agency

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