Armed police unit to be stationed near Irish border as Brexit preparations intensify

Commissioner Drew Harris made the comments at a hearing of the Dail's justice committee.
Commissioner Drew Harris made the comments at a hearing of the Dail's justice committee.

A newly formed armed police support unit will be stationed closer to the Irish border in preparation for Brexit, Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, has confirmed.

Commissioner Harris, who served for four years as Deputy Chief Constable of the P.S.N.I., made the announcement when appearing before the Dail's justice committee on Wednesday morning.

Commissioner Harris was answering a question on concerns he may have over security issues caused by Brexit.

"Overall we are ready, we've been, in effect, thinking about this for two years and building up resources in the border area during that time," he said.

"We have a passing out parade in November and that will allow us to further supplement the border counties.

"We've built up resources around our armed support unit, at the moment we have about 30 more members trained and ready.

"We're also looking towards the introduction of an armed support unit in Cavan to reduce response times in the border area, so there's a lot more to come, but we're very aware of the Brexit challenges.

"We have increased numbers in the border area, and making further investment in armed support in Cavan through the new operating model we will further enhance policing around the border counties.

"We ourselves are in a high state of planning and prep for October and for what it'll mean in short and medium term for policing in Ireland."

When asked to comment specifically on the threat posed by dissident republicans in the event of a No Deal Brexit on October 31, 2019, Commissioner Harris refused to speculate.

"I'm not going to speculate on what border infrastructure is going to be, I'm responsible for providing a policing service to protect society," he said.

"As yet, I don't know what Brexit we're getting, and therefore what will be the ramifications of that.

"There are three various elements, organised crime, threat from dissident republican groups and the impact on local communities.

"Regrettably, in respect of the impact from dissident groups, we've already seen this year six national security attacks in Northern Ireland and we ourselves have had to cope with that demand and respond and support the PSNI and conduct our own investigative efforts against these groups.

"There has been an uptick in demand, which has caused strain on the organisation, but we're prepared for that, and working hard to thwart those threats."

He added: "In respect of implementation, we'll want to be certain about the processes before we go to the border.

"There's enough happening in the border divisions at the moment without telling them on November 1, 'Guess what? You're also doing structural change'.

"We'll hold off until we get some certainty on what the Brexit position is likely to be."