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Drugs Smuggling

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 19 November 2013

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Questions (205)

Frank Feighan

Question:

205. Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance if he will review existing patrols at ports, land and sea, in the west of Ireland regarding sniffer dog cover for operation and practice in relation to checks and monitoring for drugs; and the changes that are proposed to strengthen the cover in these locations. [49383/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they attach a very high priority to combating the smuggling of controlled drugs and are committed to playing an active role, in conjunction with other relevant agencies, in working against this criminal activity and those responsible for it. Revenue has primary responsibility for the detection, interception and seizure of controlled drugs at points of entry into the State. They maintain an enforcement presence at strategic locations and place particular emphasis on developing an intelligence-based focus at both national and regional level, deploying resources to areas of highest risk. Enforcement strength at particular locations is regularly augmented with additional personnel on a risk-assessment basis, or when particular operations are taking place against illegal activity.

Revenue enforcement officers carry out regular and ongoing monitoring of the coastline, including patrols and physical checks at harbours and piers. This work is supplemented by Revenue’s Customs Drug Watch Programme, which incorporates a coastal reporting mechanism. This allows members of the public, maritime and local communities to report, in confidence, suspect or unusual movements at sea or around the coast through a confidential 24/7 free phone facility.

Revenue deploys two Customs Cutters, the RCC Suirbhéir and the RCC Faire, to patrol the coastline and undertake maritime intelligence gathering duties. These vessels support teams of land-based enforcement officers involved in anti-smuggling duties. The cutters are deployed to cover potential high-risk areas along the coastline.

Revenue has two drug detector dog teams based on the western coast, at Sligo and Shannon, which are deployed over the wider geographical area as necessary. Overall, Revenue has 13 detector dogs at its disposal (8 of which are specifically trained in drugs detection) and these dogs can be deployed to any location as required on a risk-assessment basis. Four additional dog teams are currently being commissioned (two to replace dogs which have recently been retired and two additional teams). This will bring the total number of dog detection teams with drug detection capability to ten.

Customs controls at regional airports are risk-based and are carried out by mobile enforcement personnel. Attendance at these airports is selective and targeted and is based on analysis and evaluation of national and international smuggling trends, traffic frequency, routes and other risk indicators. Attendance can also be as a result of specific intelligence. Flights with origins and destinations with a high-risk rating attract particular interest and the enforcement presence at regional airports is kept under constant review.

Revenue’s Customs service works proactively with An Garda Síochána and the Naval Service in the fight against drug trafficking as part of the Joint Task Force on Drugs Interdiction. There is excellent cooperation between these agencies in the sharing of intelligence and the identification and investigation of the criminals involved in the illegal drugs trade.

Revenue’s work against drugs crime is extensive and multi-faceted and is kept under constant review to ensure that it makes the most effective contribution possible to dealing with this societal problem.

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