348. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on introducing a task force across the island to combat Border crime (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9227/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will appreciate, the Government and I attach a high priority to combating crime of all sorts. Tackling organised crime in all its guises is a key priority for An Garda Síochána. This is clearly reflected in the Policing Plan for 2015 which sets policing commitments for the year ahead.
There is a priority operational and strategic focus from the Garda authorities on organised crime in this jurisdiction, including in the Border area, with a particular focus on fuel and tobacco fraud. The Gardaí work very closely on an ongoing basis with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and Great Britain in combating the activities of organised crime gangs who seek to exploit the Border.
The Revenue Authorities in both jurisdictions lead considerable, ongoing cross-border co-operation in tackling these illicit activities. A key feature of efforts in this regard is the interagency nature of the operational co-operation which involves the two customs services and the two police services on the island, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the UK National Crime Agency.
I am glad to inform the Deputy that there is already in place a Cross-Border Task Force on Fuel Laundering and Smuggling, which comprises representatives from An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, HM Revenue and Customs, the UK’s National Crime Agency and the Criminal Assets Bureau. It has been instrumental in targeting groups involved in the laundering and distribution of illegal fuels, operating in both jurisdictions. There is also a similar interagency group, the Cross-Border Tobacco Enforcement Group, which is in place to target the activities of gangs engaged in tobacco smuggling.
Arising from the work of these joint Task Forces, a number of groups involved in the laundering and distribution of illegal fuels and/or in the illegal trade in tobacco operating in both jurisdictions, have been identified and are specifically targeted for investigation by all law enforcement agencies concerned. Successful actions continue to be taken against such groups involved in these activities.
A measure of the close North-South co-operation in combating organised crime is the annual Cross Border Organised Crime Conference which is organised jointly by the Gardaí and the PSNI and the two Justice Departments. The conference brings together law enforcement services from each jurisdiction including Police, Customs, Criminal Assets Bureau and UK National Crime Agency. Question No. 349 answered with Question No. 305.