Garda ‘on same page’ as PSNI on IRA threat, O’Sullivan says

Frances Fitzgerald says ‘no blind eye’ will be turned to actions of Provisional IRA

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton,  Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford at the annual cross-border seminar on organised crime at the Clarion Hotel in Sligo. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford at the annual cross-border seminar on organised crime at the Clarion Hotel in Sligo. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

The Garda Commissioner and the PSNI chief constable have played down any differences between them on the level of involvement by the IRA in criminal activity.

Chief Constable George Hamilton told reporters “we are in the same place” in relation to efforts to tackle organised crime and the role of paramilitaries in crime.

Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan said she agreed they were “absolutely” on the same page in relation the IRA’s role in organised crime.

They were speaking in Sligo at the 13th annual cross border seminar on organised crime, which was also attended by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Stormont Justice Minister David Ford.

Ms Fitzgerald said it was “absolutely clear” that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in criminal activity and she promised that “no blind eye will be turned to any of that activity”.

Asked about an apparent discrepancy between his own assessment and that of the Garda Commissioner on the level of IRA activity, Mr Hamilton said this was the value of the assessments currently being undertaken in both jurisdictions.

“People will dance on the head of a pin or in the semantics of words used,” he said. “I am satisfied that through many hours of meetings with the Commissioner, with senior teams from both jurisdictions, that we have a shared understanding of the threat posed by organised crime and by paramilitaries”.

He said political leaders had asked for assessments and “let’s wait a couple of weeks and assess the outcome”.

Mr Hamilton said he and Ms O’Sullivan had met several times during August and September.He said the two day cross-border conference, which is being attended by more than 100 delegates, had been planned for several months and was not a response to recent political developments in Belfast. Attendees will discuss aspects of cross-border crime – including fuel laundering, cigarette smuggling, extortion and immigration issues.

Ms O’Sullivan also welcomed the fact that both police forces were involved in an assessment of paramilitary activity. It was important to put this in context of ongoing co-operation at both regional and national level, she added.

Ms Fitzgerald said she had asked the Garda Commissioner for an assessment of IRA activity “which she does anyway”, in view of events in the north.

She said Ms O’Sullivan was liaising with Mr Hamilton and would be coming back “with a current assessment”.

The British government set up an independent panel to assess paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland earlier this month after the murder of Kevin McGuigan sparked a political crisis in Stormont.

Asked about the impact on rural crime of closing rural garda stations, Ms O’Sullivan said it was “not about bricks and mortar”.

She said that, by the end of 2016, an additional 1,050 gardaí would be recruited.