Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 112, 114, & 115 - Customs and Excise controls [38509/16, 38511/16, 38512/16].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 112, 114, & 115 - Customs and Excise controls [38509/16, 38511/16, 38512/16]. (06 Dec 2016)

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112. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Finance when a drug detection dog will be assigned to Ireland West International Airport, Knock, County Mayo (details supplied); the cost and the timeframe to train a dog and handler; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38509/16]

114. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Finance  if the customs division of the Revenue Commissioners has at its disposal adequate resources to carry out checks along the western coastline to prevent narcotics arriving here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38511/16]

115. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Finance when a customs officer will be appointed to Killybegs Port, Killybegs, County Donegal, to ensure that checks are carried out on boats and ships arriving in Killybegs; the reason the port has been left without a customs presence since 2009, in view of the fact that the port is a non-tidal port in which boats can dock and sail at any time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38512/16]


Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 112, 114 and 115 together.


The deployment of Revenue staff and resources is a matter for Revenue.  I am advised by Revenue that they use a broad range of data, intelligence and analytical technologies to identify and evaluate risk and to confront suspected non-compliance.  Revenue currently has approximately 2,000 staff countrywide engaged on activities that are dedicated to targeting and confronting non-compliance. These activities include anti-smuggling and anti-evasion, investigation and prosecution, audit, assurance checks, anti-avoidance, returns compliance and debt collection. There are over 860 Revenue staff currently serving in the Border, Midlands, West Region. 


Revenue has an appropriate enforcement presence at all key airports and ports and at other strategic locations throughout the country and places 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. I am assured by Revenue that they attach a high priority to combatting the smuggling of controlled drugs and are very active, in conjunction with other relevant agencies, in targeting this criminal activity and those responsible for it.


Revenue deploys two Customs Cutters, two large-scale X-Ray scanners and several mobile scanners. Revenue currently deploys seventeen detector dog teams, nine of which have drug detection capabilities.  I am advised by Revenue that the cost of training a dog is estimated at €25,000 and the time to train a team is 8 weeks.  The number of dog units is a matter that is kept under ongoing review by Revenue in light of intelligence and overall assumption of risk by them.


As part of the risk focused approach to the discharge of its role in relation to illegal drugs importations, harbours and inlets along the coastline are monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis from the point of view of the potential for smuggling. This work is supplemented by Revenue's Customs Drug Watch Programme, aimed at encouraging members of the public, coastal and local maritime communities etc. to notify Revenue in confidence of suspect or unusual movements at sea or around the coast through a confidential 24/7 Drugs Watch free phone facility. This is a highly valued and successful programme, as evidenced in October 2016 by the seizure of a large quantity of drugs near Liscannor, Co. Clare following a report through the Drugs Watch Programme.


As regards Killybegs Port, I am advised by Revenue that for operational reasons they are not in a position to comment in detail on the matters referred to by the Deputy as regards this location. However, I am assured by Revenue that the post is fully encompassed by their risk and intelligence focused assessment and intervention programmes. Where necessary, an officer from Donegal Town attends at Killybegs by appointment if physical presence is needed for any particular transaction.  Patrols of the port and of the related coastline have appropriate regard for available intelligence and emerging smuggling trends.


I am satisfied that Revenue are allocating their resources to areas of greatest risk, including the detection of drugs.  I would urge the Deputy to provide to Revenue any specific information or intelligence he has which would assist in combatting the threat posed by drugs smugglers.

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