5. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if consideration has been given to the establishment of a statutory cross-Border multidisciplinary agency to tackle crime in the Border regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39986/19]


Deputy Charles Flanagan: I join the Deputy in condemning unequivocally the horrific attack on Mr. Lunney in recent times. It is my hope, as I am sure it is of every Deputy, that those responsible will be brought to justice. Policing in the Border region has always presented particular challenges that necessitate a collaborative approach to policing between law enforcement agencies North and South of the Border. There is close ongoing cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI.
As I outlined in the Seanad yesterday, while I have no objection in principle to the establishment of a statutory cross-Border agency, the existing multi-agency co-operation in place to tackle cross-Border crime is quite structured and successful. The Deputy will be aware that in November 2015, the British and Irish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive agreed a series of measures in the Fresh Start agreement, as part of a concerted and enhanced effort to tackle organised and cross-jurisdictional crime. The measures included the creation of the joint agency task force, which is led by senior officers from An Garda Síochána, the PSNI, the Revenue Commissioners and the UK's HM Revenue and Customs. A number of other relevant bodies, including the National Crime Agency and the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, are also closely involved.
The objective of the task force is to build on existing law enforcement frameworks and increase the collective effectiveness of operational actions. In this format, the senior management level of the two police services provides strong strategic direction and oversight to front-line operational activities. The task force has had some notable success in tackling cross-Border criminal activity in a range of crime areas. These include not just traditional smuggling activities but also rural and farm crimes, organised burglary and drug crime. The regrettable absence of an Executive in Northern Ireland means that the work of the task force is less visible than it might otherwise be. It was designed to report to justice ministers North and South and it is my hope that the restoration of power sharing in Northern Ireland will allow the task force to reach its full potential.