Attached are remarks I made in Dáil Éireann calling on the Government to implement additional measures to counteract the scourge of smuggling which impacts so adversely on small and medium enterprises particularly in the border area.
Sale of Illicit Goods Bill 2017: Second Stage [Private Members]
I compliment my colleague Deputy Breathnach on bringing forward this important legislation. Like Deputy Breathnach, I represent a Border region, the two counties of Cavan and Monaghan, which have a very long land Border with the neighbouring jurisdiction. We know that due to historical reasons, the area north of the Border is lightly policed, to put it mildly. Criminality has, unfortunately, flourished north of the Border in some areas in particular over the years. Our own areas south of the Border have not been short of criminality either.
In the last Dáil I brought forward legislation advocating strongly for the establishment of a cross-Border crime agency and for an intensification of co-operation between Government departments North and South and between the statutory agencies. The Government at that time did not accept my proposals but I was glad that some elements of my party’s proposals were incorporated into some legislation around the Stormont House Agreement. There have been some welcome moves in that direction with more intensified co-operation between the relevant Departments and statutory agencies North and South.
The Minister of State, Deputy D’Arcy should be aware that over the years, small and medium enterprises, as well as larger-scale operators, survived through very difficult times. We saw the trade going to the North. We still see the illicit products coming in and tempting to the consumer. I could walk into some housing estates and people will tell me that Joe or Josephine Soap were around selling their illicit tobacco products again, which, as Deputy Butler observed, come from God knows where. These goods, however, come through Northern Ireland in particular, as well as from Britain.
We need intensified co-operation between the Revenue Commissioners and their counterparts north of the Border and between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI. We also need increased co-operation between the Environmental Protection Agency and its counterpart in Northern Ireland because we should always remember that too often in this illicit trade, sludge is dumped in drains and on the banks of rivers.
That is a real threat to the provenance and the good name of our agrifood industry. That Border area in particular is heavily dependent on the agrifood industry. It has a great reputation, which is well deserved and hard earned, for producing top-class food that is exported throughout the world. If there is any question mark regarding the quality or provenance of the raw material, the primary product that goes into the manufacture and processing of food, we are in real danger and real trouble with regard to continuing to retain the more than 161 markets we have throughout the world. I again compliment my colleague, Deputy Breathnach, on bringing forward this legislation. We must ensure that every effort is made to protect the small and medium enterprises in the particular sectors referenced in this legislation.