Video: Derry’s cross-border nightlife a ‘concern’ for senior police officers says Drew Harris

The long-standing tradition of people travelling from Donegal to Derry and vice-versa for nights out is a key area of concern for police along the border, according to the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, Drew Harris.

The top police officer said both the PSNI and An Garda Síochána often had to deal with situations where serious crimes were committed by revellers on one side of the border before they returned back home to the other side.

Border crime concerns.

Border crime concerns.

Commissioner Harris said the cross-border social scene was one of three areas of concern in terms of policing the border.

He indicated the potential for violent republican groups to use a hard Brexit as an “emotional driver” was another area of concern for police and that the confidence of local communities in the border area, who are fearful of cross-border criminality, was a third area police were looking at.

However, in a briefing of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality last Thursday Commissioner Harris said he believed “we are staffing [the Border Divisions] appropriately as we see the threats at this time.”

“There is...the reality of night life in Derry, where a lot of young people travel across the border to engage in night life there but there is also attendant crime,” he told the committee.

“It is about managing those scenarios where a serious crime may be committed in one jurisdiction but the perpetrators are located in the other jurisdiction.

“How do we manage the evidential issues that emerge from that? We want to know how well the European treaties, particularly around criminal justice, are going to withstand Brexit or what will go in their place,” continued Commissioner Harris.

The former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable further identified local policing and local confidence in policing along the border as a matter of concern.

“I know the PSNI is also concerned about this. People living close to the border will be worried and will have a fear that their area could be raided from the other side, backwards and forwards, and there is the fear of crime and the travelling criminal crossing the border,” he remarked.

Commissioner Harris said the potential threat of organised criminals and violent dissident republican groups were also exercising senior police officers on both sides of the border.

He told the committee that he believed the two phenomena were linked because smuggling was a source of revenue for some violent republican groups.

He also expressed concern that violent republicanism would use the imposition of a hard border, if one should arise, as an “emotional driver” for their campaigns.

“Organised crime is the third area of concern. Any change in trading tariffs gives opportunity for smugglers to make illicit profits or to evade tax or duty,” he stated.

“There is an organised crime element to that and any organised crime element on the border will also provide some additional element of funding to terrorist groups, dissident republicans in particular.

“It has been suggested that they might use this as an emotional driver for their particular campaigns, and we want to avoid anything like that at all. We want to avoid them being able to use this as a rallying call.

“There is a lot of focus on a hard border in terms of the threat of terrorism but there are two other elements as well that are equally important.

“We as an organisation have been engaging with the PSNI since the Brexit vote in respect of this,” said the Commissioner.

He said plans were in place to deal with Brexit but warned that there remained an “unknown element” that police had to contend with.