349. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which she expects to be in a position to identify and isolate the membership of criminal gangs, with a view to putting them out of business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42916/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I can assure the Deputy that the operation of organised crime groups is closely monitored on an ongoing basis by An Garda Síochána and that tackling these groups remains a key ongoing priority for both the Government and An Garda Síochána. This priority is clearly reflected in the Garda Policing Plan for 2015.
In tackling organised crime activity, An Garda Síochána continues to develop and implement operations and strategies aimed at targeting, dismantling and disrupting criminal networks, utilising advanced analytical and intelligence methodologies. Multi-disciplinary approaches are also utilised to ensure the activities of individuals and groups involved in criminal enterprise are effectively targeted, including the use of the proceeds of crimes legislation, money-laundering legislation, and the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau.
In targeting such criminal groupings An Garda Síochána operate at local and community level, as well as national and international level in partnership with other policing agencies including Interpol and Europol.
While we should not underestimate the difficulties which the Garda authorities face in tackling organised crime activity, we continue to see the significant results of their efforts in the arrests made and persons being brought before the Courts, as well as the ongoing drugs and firearms seizures made.
I can also assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána is committed to utilising all available resources in targeting such activity with significant recent investments being made through the recently launched Operation Thor. This Operation will entail a broad range of activities including; additional high-visibility patrols in identified burglary hot-spots; increased used of checkpoints to tackle the criminal gangs using the national road network; the use of new high powered vehicles by the armed Regional Response Units; efforts to disrupt the stolen goods market; programmes to help reduce re-offending by prolific offenders; a high-profile national crime prevention awareness campaign, and targeted crime prevention advice for local communities and enhanced supports for victims.
Finally with regard to the question of organised crime structures and membership, I am advised that membership of criminal groups tends to be fluid with groups merging and splitting on an ongoing basis. In addition many modern groupings are transnational in nature. With this in mind, the Deputy will appreciate that such structures do not allow for the easy identification of precise numbers of such groupings and their members at any particular point in time.