Gardaí will not be required to perform any border checks if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal at Halloween, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has indicated.
Amid mounting public statements in Ireland, Britain and in Brussels about the likelihood of a 'No Deal' Brexit, the minister said the Government would not “countenance” garda checks near the border or involvement in checks by other agencies, such as Customs.
But the minister said that additional resources had been put into the border region, with 150 extra members over the last two years and the commencement of a new Armed Support Unit (ASU) in Cavan.
His comments follow statements made by the PSNI Chief Constable who said that they would not be staffing any form of border security after Brexit.
Simon Byrne said last Friday that while they would police the border as normal, they would not be conducting “cross-border checks or the functions of other agencies”.
As the nature of any customs or veterinary checks south of the border have yet to emerge in the event of a No Deal Brexit, the minister was asked about the prospect of gardaí being involved in assisting any such checks.
“I don't envisage, nor does the Government, any return to the tightly patrolled, highly armed controls of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
“It is not envisaged that gardaí will be required at any border checks, nor indeed would we countenance any such arrangement.”
Questioned on it again, he repeated it was not envisaged that there would be any garda checks as a result of Brexit. Further asked did this include involvement in checks by other agencies, he said: “That is not envisaged”.
He said Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, a former deputy PSNI chief constable, was “best placed” within An Garda Síochána to know “what's needed in border policing”.
The minister said there were “high degrees” of cooperation between the Gardai and the PSNI.
He pointed out that a new ASU had just started in Cavan, supplementing the ASUs in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal and Dundalk, Co Louth.
The ASU that has been set up in Cavan is an interim measure and is staffed by seconding members from ASUs outside the Northern Region. It is due to be replaced by a permanent, full-time ASU in the coming months.
He stressed that the “greatest threat to the security of this state” continued to come from dissident republicans.