5. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the plans of An Garda Síochána and the resources available to it to tackle the criminal gangs involved in diesel laundering, cigarette smuggling and petrol stretching across the island. [7371/15]


Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: The point made by the Deputy about criminal gangs involved in diesel laundering, cigarette smuggling and petrol stretching throughout the island but concentrated to a degree along the Border is an extremely serious one. The issue is receiving the attention of the PSNI and An Garda Síochána which work in close co-operation through the joint policing strategy and the North-South crime conferences which are held regularly. I am very pleased to say co-operation between the PSNI and An Garda Síochána has never been better. Recently I met Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to discuss this and other issues and we both welcomed the fact that co-operation was so effective. This co-operation is necessary to deal with the type of crimes about which the Deputy is asking.
Just this month, as a result of a joint intelligence-led investigation, officers from Revenue's Customs service, supported by An Garda Síochána, and officers from Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, supported by the PSNI, carried out searches in a number of premises along the Border in both jurisdictions. As a result, seizures of cigarettes with a value of €167,000 were made in this jurisdiction, together with the seizure of a tobacco processing plant, 2 million cigarettes and 12 tonnes of tobacco in Northern Ireland. One can see the scale of the issue involved. A significant oil laundering plant was uncovered in County Monaghan. It had the capacity to launder an estimated 20 million litres of fuel per annum. These are just some examples of what is being done by the enforcement agencies.
Tackling organised crime, in all its guises, is a priority for An Garda Síochána. This is reflected in the policing commitments for the year ahead. An Garda Síochána has a strong and productive relationship with the PSNI and takes actions to counter security and crime threats which face the island, including the activities of the organised criminal groups to which paramilitary groups are inextricably linked. This is a very challenging criminal justice area which is getting focused attention, North and South, to deal with the issues. A cross-Border policing strategy is in place to improve public safety and to disrupt this kind of criminal activity.