Minister rejects PSNI chief’s claim about weak immigration checks

Garda Commissioner points to success of joint operations with UK security forces

A claim  that weak Irish immigration checks are allowing criminals access to the UK is not well founded, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

A claim that weak Irish immigration checks are allowing criminals access to the UK is not well founded, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

 

The PSNI chief constable’s claim that weak immigration checks in the Republic are allowing international criminals access to the North and Britain is not “well founded”, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said.

Speaking in Belfast, Mr Flanagan disagreed with George Hamilton’s suggestion that “access into the Republic of Ireland may not have the resource assigned to it or the immigration checks” seen in the UK.

The Minister said Mr Hamilton’s remarks must be placed in the broader context of the relationship between the PSNI and gardaí which was at its “most positive and closest ever” in terms of sharing information and working together.

“I don’t believe his remarks were well founded but I do believe he did advert to challenges in the context of the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, ” he said. “A priority of the Irish Government will be to ensure the maintenance of the current invisible border.

“I accept what the chief constable has said that we face challenges and of course there will be security challenges and security implications on the matter of Brexit. ”

Surprise

Northern Ireland

The criticism caused “surprise” in Irish Government circles with one senior source saying immigration was primarily a matter between the Department of Justice and its British Home Office counterpart.

The source said there was strong co-operation between the two departments in trying to tackle the problem.

Mr Flanagan characterised the heavier focus on international criminals seeking access to Britain through ports in the Republic as another consequence of Brexit.

Speaking at the launch a new armed unit for Dublin, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan pointed to the joint immigration operations with UK security forces.

“We have a dedicated immigration unit in Dundalk and in some of the joint operations we have detected people coming north-south and indeed east-west,” she said.

Asked whether Mr Hamilton’s assessment was wrong, Ms O’Sullivan responded: “The chief constable has his opinion and we will continue to work very closely together.”