More Garda resources will be needed along the Border after Brexit, and proper planning should start immediately, superintendents have said.
The Association of Garda Superintendents, which is holding its annual conference this week, said the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union would have implications for the entire force, including its intelligence-gathering capability.
The association's president, Noel Cunningham, said roads that cross from the Republic into Northern Ireland could become "crime corridors" without more funding; only about a third as many gardaí are posted in the Border region now as were stationed there during the Troubles.
Senior officers said last week they were concerned the Republic could become a staging post for immigrants hoping to reach Britain illegally. After claiming asylum here, they warned, the immigrants could then travel by ferry from ports in the Republic or the North. The officers said immigration checks would need to be stepped up within the Common Travel Area between the Republic and UK.
“We don’t want to be in the situation where, all of a sudden, people have to be drawn, resources have to be drawn, from places where they are already needed, up to the Border to address an issue there,” Supt Cunningham said. “A bit of strategic planning, prethinking, preplanning, will make sure that the proper resources are in the proper places.”
The conference also heard that one in five superintendents is under investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and that many inquiries "hang over them" for years.
Delegates were told that almost all complaints made to Gsoc by members of the public were sent to superintendents to investigate on behalf of the Garda watchdog. “At present we have a situation where superintendents are carrying out 90 per cent of the investigations for Gsoc, and this is on top of our daily job,” Supt Cunningham said.
“This is unfair. It’s unfair on the public who make complaints against members of the Garda and expect an independent investigation to be carried out . . . Many of our own members are currently under investigation, with investigations running from three to five years.
“That’s very unfair, and it’s happening because Gsoc is not fully resourced. They should be properly resourced, so investigations can be carried out promptly and professionally.”
The watchdog has its own investigators, with police-style powers, including the authority to search Garda stations and arrest members of the force, but delegates investigations to Garda officers when it has too many to carry out itself. Gsoc staff oversee such inquiries.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he was anxious to ensure Gsoc would be better resourced and there were talks within Government on that issue. When asked if it was acceptable for gardaí to be investigating gardaí, Mr Flanagan said legislative reforms were being considered to shore up the independence of Gsoc, although he did not elaborate.