In common with all Departments and State agencies, An Garda Síochána has been preparing for Brexit. There is ongoing engagement between senior Garda management and my Department in this regard. Preparation has had a wide-ranging focus on operational requirements, including personnel, infrastructure and technology. The Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, is committed to ensuring the organisation can deal with any policing challenges arising from Brexit. Clearly, however, the circumstances which may arise are dependent on the ultimate political settlement.
The Government's policy is that there will be no hard border on the island and there are no plans for such. However, policing in the Border region has always presented particular challenges. This can be expected to increase in the context of the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. It is also the case that violent dissident republican groups continue to seek to frustrate counter-terrorism efforts while organised criminals seek to exploit the two jurisdictions to try to evade detection.
The 2018 cross-Border threat assessment, prepared jointly by An Garda Síochána and the PSNI, estimated 43% of organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland have a cross-Border dimension. Likewise, mobile organised crime groups, responsible for multiple instances of domestic burglary, operate on an all-island basis. There are increasing instances of borderless crimes such as cyberfraud and international terrorism.
The success of cross-Border policing actions is grounded in the recognition that the best means of combating the threat to our communities is to maintain and enhance the excellent levels of co-operation between law enforcement agencies north and south of the Border. The Garda and the PSNI, along with other agencies, have worked together closely for many years and enjoy an excellent working relationship and co-operation at all levels. The Fresh Start agreement recognised this and led to the establishment of joint agency investigation teams which have had considerable success in combating this type of crime. This is also the context for the Garda Commissioner’s operational decision to establish an additional armed support unit in Cavan.