Last week I attended the 17th Cross Border Conference on Organised Crime in Co. Cavan together with the Garda Commissioner, the Chief Constable of the PSNI, senior officers from all the agencies and senior officials from Department of Justice Northern Ireland and my own Department. This is an annual event, aimed at enhancing understanding and cooperation between law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border, particularly in relation to cross border organised criminality and related issues.
The objectives of the Conference include sharing experiences, identifying effective approaches and recommending actions to the Joint Agency Task Force aimed at enhancing cross-border working relationships to enhance our collective ability to tackle organised crime.
'Information Sharing and Co-operation' were the twin themes of this year's Conference. They are at the very heart of the ongoing partnership, North and South, that continues to yield successful outcomes in terms of crime investigation and prevention. This is vital for communities living along the border in particular.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the specific matters discussed at the Conference are sensitive and operational in nature, however I can advise the Deputy that robust and fruitful discussions around tackling cross border criminality and cross border co-operation between law enforcement agencies North and South of the Border took place. The report also heard about actions taken on foot of last year's conference.
The occasion also provided a useful opportunity for members of the Joint Agency Task Force, established under the Fresh Start Agreement, to come together, allowing for detailed consideration of the necessary improvements and innovations, including international co-operation, which can be taken to strengthen the effectiveness of the Task Force.
While the work of the Task Force is reviewed as part of the annual cross border conference on organised crime, there is ongoing multiagency engagement in relation to operations to tackle cross border crime, reflecting the fact that policing in the border region has always presented particular challenges and these necessitate a collaborative approach to policing with law enforcement agencies north and south of the border.