Gardai saving our lives -- NI Justice chief
GARDAI are saving lives north of the border due to high-grade intelligence and ongoing operations against republican dissidents, Northern Ireland's Justice Minister has revealed.
But the minister said he wanted the level of cross-border policing co-operation to reach a point where every garda car eventually had a direct communications link with every PSNI vehicle.
At present only a few stations on either side of the border have direct communications links.
"The work of the Garda is absolutely vital," said David Ford in an interview to mark the first year of the Stormont Justice Ministry.
Praising garda operations in Dublin and Co Wicklow which have seriously disrupted the work of dissident republicans, Mr Ford said: "It is absolutely clear that the level of operations being mounted by the gardai against those terrorist organisations must have saved lives. We can't say whose lives and where but those garda operations have made a difference."
Mr Ford also praised the level of intelligence gardai have gathered on the dissident republicans and the way it is passed up north.
He said: "All the information that I get is of the highest level of co-operation in terms of intelligence. It certainly seems to me that on both sides of the border that the security forces are bearing down on the dissidents." On further improvements to Garda-PSNI co-operation, the minister told the Herald: "I think even a few years ago if you wanted to communicate from Enniskillen's police station to Cavan Garda Station you virtually had to be routed through Belfast and Dublin. Now officers can call straight from Enniskillen to Cavan station.
"There will be potential further improvements to the point where we will eventually have direct links from PSNI car to Garda car.
"I think that is the kind of thing that needs to be worked on. Just as you have direct links between different Garda districts that same system should link up with the PSNI in their districts."
Although Mr Ford declined to discuss specific operations where Garda intelligence saved lives, the Herald is aware of a number of terrorist murder bids thwarted by the force. They include the attempted murder of an off-duty PSNI officer at his Fermanagh home in 2009.