European anti-narcotic force unveiled


A pan-European anti-drug task force with the purpose of monitoring narcotics shipments passing into European waters has been launched in Portugal.

Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan said the new task force would make it more difficult for drugs cartels to smuggle cocaine into Ireland .

"The pooling of resources will lead to vastly increased monitoring of suspicious vessels heading towards Irish waters," he said at the launch of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre in Lisbon.

"This in turn will lead to increased seizures and a reduction in the supply of cocaine."

The new centre will bring together law enforcement agencies from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland to combat illegal drugs shipments.

Ireland will be represented by the Garda Drugs Joint Task Force, the Customs Service and the Naval Service, while Europol and the US Joint Inter-Agency Task Force will also have a role there.

The centre, established by a Treaty signed today by ministers from each participating country, will focus primarily on transatlantic drug smuggling routes from South and Latin America.

"The prevalence of cocaine in Irish society has increased enormously in recent years," said Mr Lenihan.

"As well as the obvious social and health consequences, this trade also fuels organised and gangland crime, and ultimately leads to a futile loss of life.

"The opening of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre will make the EU a much more hostile place for cocaine traffickers to operate."