Dáil Éireann - Volume 688 - 09 July, 2009

Written Answers. - Customs Service.

Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the date on which the new cutter vessel to patrol the north-west coast will be delivered in accordance with the contract worked out with the suppliers of same; the County Donegal port in which the vessel will be based; the number of custom coastal patrols carried out at the coastline in Donegal since 1 May 2009; the number of joint patrols carried out with Irish coastguards since 1 January 2009; the number of visits from customs and excise to community groups in Donegal to inform and advise these groups of the increased demand for all types of drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29337/09]

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they will be taking delivery of the new cutter at the end of September 2009. Following normal sea-trials the cutter will be brought into service in mid October 2009. This will bring the number of Revenue Customs cutters to two.

Both cutters will have a national remit, to include the Donegal coastline. Either or both vessels can and will be deployed to patrol and carry out operations in Donegal as and when required. Apart from routine patrolling any such deployment will be risk-driven. Neither of the cutters will be based exclusively in Co. Donegal.

The existing cutter was continuously deployed to the North West Region from May 14 to June 12, 2009, and was available for deployment at short notice to Donegal if required during all of that period. As part of that deployment the cutter operated exclusively off the Donegal coastline during the continuous period from June 7 to June 12.

The Revenue Customs Service does not carry out joint patrols with the Irish Coastguard Service. In this context it should be noted that the Irish Coastguard Service is not a law enforcement agency for the purposes of drugs interdiction and has no legal competence in such matters.

[229] Revenue personnel are tasked with drugs detection on the coastline or at the borders. The Garda are tasked with drugs interdiction within the State. On the introduction of the “Drugs Watch” scheme, Revenue Customs personnel gave a number of presentations to community groups in Donegal. More recently the Garda have taken over this function, as it is seen to fall more within their remit and they now regularly speak at schools and to community groups. Revenue personnel involved in drugs interdiction run a stand at the Fish Ireland event in Killybegs and maintain ongoing contact with locals along the Donegal coastline, fishermen, marina owners, coastguard personnel and harbour masters.

Revenue is a participant in the National Drugs Strategy and works closely with the other agencies involved in implementing that Strategy. Last year Revenue launched its own internal Strategic Plan for Drugs Interdiction. It recognises the fact that Revenue Customs officers and other agencies (national and international) and community groupings must work in co-operation with each other in the fight against smuggling of narcotics. It also recognises the increasing importance of interaction with community groups in coastal areas, which is effected through our Drugswatch programme. That Strategic Plan is being operated across the organisation.