Address by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD
12th Annual Cross Border Seminar on Organised Crime
La Mon Hotel, Belfast
Minister Ford, Chief Constable, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen I am delighted to be here at the annual Cross Border Seminar on Organised Crime.
I would firstly like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation to all of the agencies and organisations represented here today and for the very important work you do on behalf of our communities. Each one of you plays a vital role in tackling organised crime on a daily basis, and I wish to express my sincere appreciation of your continued determination in bringing those involved in criminal activities to justice.
In recent days, we have seen significant international cooperation involving some of you here. I refer to the recent seizure of a yacht off the Cork Coast which contained a very substantial amount of drugs. Similarly, the recent Europol led operation “Archimedes”, which targeted serious organised crime groups, involved 34 participating countries and a number of international agencies.
I would like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to invest in this seminar which continues to develop cooperation initiatives amongst the dedicated members of your agencies. It is your commitment and your cooperation that continues to make our joint efforts a success in the ongoing fight against organised crime.
The theme of this year’s Seminar – “Cross Border Co-Operation in Action” is very pertinent and reflects the strong and productive relationship that exists between the PSNI, An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. There has been, is, and will continue to be excellent cross-border co-operation between all of these agencies both North and South in combating the activities of the organised criminal gangs who seek to exploit the border for their own gain. Many successful actions have been taken against a number of groups involved in the laundering and distribution of illegal fuels and in tobacco fraud. The criminal gangs, operating in both jurisdictions have been identified and disrupted, and they are being specifically targeted for investigation by all the enforcement agencies concerned.
The presentation topics and workshops that will be covered during the Seminar highlight current issues of particular interest to the agencies and organisations and reflect the theme. The workshop topics will provide an excellent opportunity to discuss a number of issues in more depth and so aid in identifying real and practical ways to further cooperate in these areas.
Indeed it is as a result of the well established arrangements for intelligence sharing and operational cooperation that the Cross Border Task Force on Fuel Laundering and Smuggling and the Cross Border Tobacco Fraud Enforcement Group have successfully identified a number of groups involved in the laundering and distribution of illegal fuels in both jurisdictions and the smuggling of illegal cigarettes into the Irish and UK black markets.
North-South co-operation at the policy and operational levels in combating crime is positive and dynamic. The challenges that crime presents are shared ones on this island and joint working in the fight against crime will continue to enhance our efforts to improve community safety for all.
I want to acknowledge specifically the threat posed to many of you by the activities of groups who are determined to destroy the hard won peace on this island. Indeed it is right that we should remember here today – with respect and gratitude – colleagues who have fallen in the line of duty. But we should take heart too from our shared determination that these groups will not succeed.
In closing, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for all of the vital work you are doing. I would also like to thank the Planning Group for the Seminar which includes representatives from the Department of Justice Northern Ireland, An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Revenue Commissioners, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and representatives from the Department of Justice and Equality for all their efforts in planning and organising this Seminar.
May I wish you all an interesting and productive two days.