Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has denied that the appointment of more gardaí to the border region is Brexit related.
Mr Varadkar said the Garda Commissioner made an operational decision to establish another armed support unit in Co Cavan to deal with cross-border organised crime, cybercrime and criminals involved in domestic burglaries on an all-island basis.
“This measure consists of additional gardaí and an additional armed support unit for what are the Border counties, but not the Border per se,” he said. “I believe this will be welcomed by people, in particular by those who have been subjected to burglaries, in that region.”
He said that of 200 new Garda recruits, 49 would go to the northern region, which comprises the border counties, “but not the actual physical border itself, which of course does not exist”.
However, the Taoiseach said that 400 additional customs officials would be in place by the March 29th deadline for the UK’s departure from the EU.
Mr Varadkar was responding to a number of Opposition TDs reacting to an Irish Independent report about armed units being sent to the border in anticipation of the fallout from a hard Brexit.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin asked why Ireland was “the only EU member that has not said what will happen on its borders in a no-deal scenario”, while it was reported that armed units were being sent to the border in anticipation of a no-deal Brexit.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the Taoiseach consistently said the Government had made no preparations for a hard border "and yet we are hearing a constant drip, drip of commentary and reports which suggest that behind the scenes, the Government may be considering installing a physical border".
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that for people living in border areas “news like this certainly causes real concern”.
She also asked the Taoiseach how he planned to mitigate against a hard border. Again insisting that the Government was not preparing for a hard border, Mr Varadkar said he had not read the report about armed units being sent to the border round the clock.
However, he said a cross-border threat assessment last year by An Garda Síochána and the PSNI estimated that 43 per cent of organised crime gangs in the North have a cross-border dimension.
“Likewise mobile, organised crime groups responsible for multiple serious incidences of domestic burglary operate on an all-island basis,” he said.
“There are also increasing incidences of borderless crimes such as cyberfraud and international terrorism,” and that was the basis on which the Commissioner decided to establish an additional armed support unit.
He pointed out that the Garda Commissioner had established armed support units in each of the six Garda regions. In the northern region such units were currently based in Ballyshannon and Dundalk Garda stations. “The unit based in Cavan will augment that.”
He said there was a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday about no-deal Brexit planning and “we will be in a position to have some 400 Revenue and Customs people in place at the end of the month.
“There also will be between 50 and 60 officials from the Department of Health and between 150 and 200 inspectors from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. We are confident that the IT systems will be in place and that we will be able to implement the acquis at the ports and airports.”