Written Answers. - Drug Smuggling.

Tuesday, 28 February 1995

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 449 No. 7

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  77.  Mr. Killeen  Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen   asked the Minister for Finance  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   his views on a reported claim that the Irish coastline is vulnerable to drug baron activities in view of the fact that this country's communications system does not stretch far enough into the Atlantic. [4084/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, in view of the greater responsibility placed on Customs for protecting not only Ireland, but the EU as a whole, against drug smuggling with the abolition of systematic checks at internal Community frontiers since 1 January 1993, a Customs National Drugs Team (CNDT) was established. The CNDT, comprising over 70 staff, consists of intelligence units, operational units, maritime units and sniffer dog units, which are strategically based at locations throughout the country. All units are mobile and employ the most modern means of communication and [1768] have access to aerial and sea surveillance.These specialist officials supplement 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.

The CNDT maintains contacts with customs administrations throughout the world by means of international conventions to which Ireland is a contracting party. In addition, a highly developed computer system (Customs Information system) which links the customs services of EU member states has been established to facilitate quick and effective exchanges of information regarding suspect movements of people and goods. Arrangements are also in place for the transfer of information on the movement of suspect containers, ships and yachts.

On the national front, the CNDT has negotiated memoranda of understanding with trade associations and companies involved in the transport of goods and/or persons as part of the continuing drive against drug smuggling. Additionally, they recently launched the coastal and airfield reporting pack under the drug watch programme. The pack has had wide distribution and enlists the assistance of coastal communities, maritime personnel, people residing in close proximity to airfields and other members of the public and encourages the reporting of unusual occurrences in their areas to Customs by freefone or freepost.

There is close co-operation between all Government agencies in the battle against drug smuggling. The Naval Service and Air Corps provide vital assistance on request with regard to the monitoring of suspect ships and yachts operating outside the range of the CNDT maritime units. This assistance provides essential cover and communications far out to sea.

A report is currently being prepared by the Department of Justice, in consultation with all concerned, with a view to further improving co-ordination, sharing of information and intelligence and [1769] ensuring that there is the utmost level of co-operation by all the agencies involved in the fight against drug smuggling.

In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the co-operation that exists between the appropriate Government services provides adequate offshore surveillance and communications.


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