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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 18 June, 2019
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Gardaí 'hold no intelligence' of Provo involvement in fuel smuggling

Minister Charlie Flanagan says criminals are being pursued.

A Provisional IRA funeral in the 1980s. (File)
A Provisional IRA funeral in the 1980s. (File)
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Updated 4.21 pm

MINISTER CHARLIE FLANAGAN is rejecting allegations that border fuel smugglers are not being targeted because of fears doing so would hurt the peace process.

The Foreign Affairs Minister was speaking after a North-South meeting which suggested a specialised force to fight organised crime along the border

The British Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) said it is “alarmed” by the scale of laundering plants in border areas after a policing report was published today.

The BIPA report comes a week after Sinn Féin TD Padriag MacLochlainn received a reply from An Garda Síochána aboout the issue of crime in border areas.

The deputy had written to gardaí following a series of articles in the Sunday Independent alleging the involvement of the Provisional IRA in the fuel smuggling trade.

The response from the commissioner’s secretary said that gardaí “hold no evidence” that the IRA retain a military structure and are engaged in criminality.

The note does not that former members may be engaged with crime for personal gain.

Following the response, an opinion piece in yesterday’s edition of the paper suggested that the garda letter “should have been stamped, ‘written under duress of peace process’.”

Speaking this afternoon, Flanagan rejected a the suggestion that a “blind-eye” is being turned to republican activity in border areas.

“I reject any suggestion that there is anything but, A) the fullest co-operation between the gardaí and the PSNI and B) a resolve to bring those responsible to justice,” he said.

The minister also said that he ‘doesn’t have any evidence’ that the proceeds from fuel smuggling have made their way into the political process.

Border patrol

policing report detailed how many of these fuel laundering plants are operated automatically, making it difficult for police to catch perpetrators.

The report outlines that such plants were often based in remote areas, making then difficult to police, but that this has changed more recently with plants found in Dublin and Waterford.

The proposed new task force would be both permanent and full-time with a sole focus on border criminals.

Similar task forces involving agencies from both the Republic and Northern Ireland have been formed to investigate the issues of fuel laundering and cigarette smuggling.

The idea is that the new force would build on this to form a single cohesive unit to fight against gangs operating on the border.

The BIP report also describes how numerous criminal gangs involved in smuggling often now work in partnership with each other.

“Even more troubling was the link between these organised crime gangs and dissident groups who heavily depended on organised crime to fund their terrorist activities,” the report found.

It’s also being recommended that filling station operators convicted of selling illegal fuel cannot cannot simply reopen again after a few weeks, as happens at present. It also called for longer sentences for offenders.

Consumers who have knowingly bought illegal commodities, smuggled cigarettes for example, should also be subjected to on-the-spot fines BIPA.

Read: Investigation after thousands of litres of fuel-laundering ‘sludge’ found on motorway >

Read: Revenue busts oil laundering plant that could have cost State €10m a year >

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Rónán Duffy

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