Claim of border ‘twilight zone’ an insult - Garda Commissioner
Fitzgerald says ‘disturbing’ information in PIRA appraisals about SF links to terrorists
Minister of State Simon Harris, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at Athlone Garda station on Wednesday where details of a Garda building and refurbishment programme were announced. Photograph: James Flynn/APX.
Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has refuted suggestions the border counties were a policing “twilight zone” where the rule of law was not being fully enforced.
She said the depiction was an insult to gardaí who had served there, some of whom had lost their lives in the process.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said while Troubles-related “legacy” criminality was concentrated in the border area, An Garda Síochána had a strong record of pursuing terrorists and former terrorists there.
Separately, both Ms O’Sullivan and Ms Fitzgerald dismissed media reports over the last week of a Provisional IRA “mole” in the Garda, though the former said she was aware of a newspaper story on the matter and it was being examined.
In the Dáil on Tuesday night Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said of the border region: “There are individuals ruling the roost in these areas on a continuing basis and there is a well-established organised criminal network involving individual members of paramilitary groups. There is a twilight zone there that we cannot get at.”
In response to questions from the media on Wednesday about whether the borderlands were a “twilight zone”, Ms O’Sullivan said it was important to remember that over several decades members of An Garda Síochána had tackled “crime and terrorism in all its forms”.
“Some of them paid the ultimate price and to suggest in any way that there is an intelligence failure or a blind eye being turned to criminality or indeed the border is a twilight zone is very unfounded.”
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Ms O’Sullivan did not mention Mr Martin in her responses to journalists.
A spokesman for her later clarified she was responding to a general line of questioning from journalists about whether there was a policing “twilight zone” along the border. The spokesman added Ms O’Sullivan’s responses were “not directed at any individual or intended to be in response to comments by any individual”.
Ms O’Sullivan noted 70 people - 33 of whom were previously linked to PIRA - had been charged with terrorism related charges in the last five years and that the Criminal Assets Bureau had taken €28 million from 50 people previously linked to PIRA since its inception in 1996.
As recently as two days ago some 10 million cigarettes valued at some €5 million had been seized in the border area.
“So I think it’s unfair to suggest that, in any way, there’s a twilight zone operating any place in the country, let alone in the border area,” she added.
“To suggest that in some way we can forget the sacrifice and efforts of the men and women of An Garda Síochána over the last number of decades is unfair to them and it’s unfair to their families.”
She made her comments at an event in Athlone Garda station, Co Westmeath, at which a building and refurbishment programme for the Garda valued at €60 million over five years was set out.
Speaking at the same event, Ms Fitzgerald said the PIRA appraisal reports from Britain and the Republic contained “disturbing” information about the continuing links between terrorist entities and Sinn Féin.
This included the conclusion in the British report that Sinn Féin and what remained of PIRA were still controlled by the Provisional Army Council.
“Those are the questions that Sinn Féin has to answer and it’s for other parties as well to reflect on as well,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“I think the serious following on question is; what is the impact in the south in relation to that activity that happens in the North?
“Clearly the legacy has to be addressed and new initiatives are needed to ensure the legacy issues are dealt with for once and for all.”