Written Answers. - Customs Service.

Frances Fitzgerald

Ceist:

126 Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Finance if he will give details of the working hours of the customs service; and his views on whether these hours are adequate to monitor the illegal importation of drugs to this country. [406/94]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the normal hours of attendance for Customs officials is 9 a.m. to 5.15 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. Attendances outside these hours are provided, as required, at various locations e.g. airports and ferryports. In addition, Customs staff employed on Mobile Task Units and in the Customs National Drugs Team (CNDT) are rostered for attendance between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays (Monday to Saturday) with provision for payment of overtime, if needed, for attendances outside these hours.

The Revenue Commissioners established the CNDT on 1 January 1993 to combat the smuggling of drugs and to take account of the greater responsibility placed on Customs to protect the external frontier of the European Union, in this regard, following the introduction of the Single Market.

The CNDT is an intelligence driven organisation which uses modern technology and maintains contacts with Customs administrations throughout the world by means of International Conventions to which Ireland is a contracting party. Comprising over 70 staff the CNDT consists of Intelligence Units, Operational Units, Maritime Units and Sniffer-dog Units which are strategically based at locations throughout the country. These specialist officials are supplemented by the general cadre of Customs and Excise staff who are also responsible for the detection and prevention of drug smuggling as part of their normal duties.
In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the hours of attendance of Customs officials combined with the extra resources and intelligence operations of the CNDT and the availability of Mobile Units to assist, when required, are adequate to monitor the illegal importation of drugs into this country.