‘Blind eye’ shown to fuel laundering due to peace process – FF

Taoiseach: Co-operation between agencies on both sides of Border substantial, successful

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has repeated claims that authorities on both sides of the Border may be turning a “certain blind eye” to fuel laundering and cigarette smuggling because of the peace process.

Following publication of and debate on a report by a committee of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly when similar claims were made, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan denied the allegations.

However, in the Dáil on Tuesday Mr Martin said “it may be unfounded but there has been an anecdotal view that because of the peace process and everything else a certain blind eye has been turned to some of this”.

This might be unfair he added, but “it seems to me that the budgetary difficulties faced by Governments in both jurisdictions has caused difficulties”.

Speaking during Taoiseach’s questions the Fianna Fáil leader said the British-Irish committee was “alarmed by the evidence of the widespread presence of fuel laundering plants and filling stations, selling illicit fuel in border regions”.

‘Absolute scandal’

Mr Martin added: “Apparently you can drive by and look at them. It raises all sorts of questions about the level of enforcement. But the very fact that they’re so visible to Seán Citizen is incomprehensible.”

And he asked: “How seriously is this being cracked down on?”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny agreed that it was an “absolute scandal for somebody who pulls into a filling station and pays for their fuel on the assumption that it is of the highest standard and then finds the engine is destroyed in a very short time later”.

Mr Martin asked if the Government would implement the report recommendations to establish a permanent full-time task force of staff seconded from relevant agencies, dedicated to eliminating the activities of organised crime gangs involved in cross-Border illicit trade.

Mr Kenny said co-operation between agencies on both sides of the Border in dealing with this criminal activity had been substantial and quite successful.

The Government would carefully consider the committee’s report and follow through on it.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams claimed, however, Mr Martin "was at the usual rubbish of making ridiculous unsubstantiated attacks on Sinn Féin and on those people who support us in the North".