I am happy to inform the Deputy that there is close and ongoing co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI on all aspects of policing, including combating organised crime. The Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI, who are responsible for operational policing co-operation, have repeatedly emphasised that the close and high quality co-operation between their forces has been instrumental in preventing attacks, combating criminality and saving lives.
The two police forces operate a joint Cross-Border Policing Strategy which has as its aims to improve public safety throughout Ireland, to disrupt criminal activity and to enhance the policing capability of both police services on the island. All of these are important elements in enabling the two forces to work more effectively together in tackling crime and promoting community safety for all communities on this island.
Interagency co-operation is a key factor in combating the activities of organised criminal gangs operating on this island and the paramilitary groups who are inextricably linked to them.
I would point the Deputy, for example, to the successful actions that have been taken against a number of groups involved in the laundering and distribution of illegal fuels. These groups, operating in both jurisdictions, have been identified and disrupted, and are now being specifically targeted for investigation by all the enforcement agencies concerned.
These actions have been underpinned by the Cross-Border Task Force on Fuel Laundering and Smuggling which comprises representatives from the two police forces, the two customs services, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency. This group is in place to enhance joint efforts in tackling fuel laundering and smuggling.
The Deputy will be interested to know that a similar group is in place to support the fight against the criminal activities of groups engaged in tobacco fraud. The same interagency approach is deployed by the Cross Border Tobacco Enforcement Group in order to enhance the effectiveness of actions taken to disrupt this criminality.
I would point out to the House that each year my Department and the Garda authorities, in conjunction with their counterparts in Northern Ireland, organise a Cross-Border Organised Crime Seminar. This provides an opportunity to assess and address the ever changing trends in crime. The fact that the Seminar is now in its eleventh year is testimony to the excellent co-operation that exists between the law enforcement agencies on the island in terms of exchanging knowledge and experience and seeking to further enhance and deepen co-operation and joint-working in the fight against crime.