Cross border chopper plans should progress

THE impasse at Stormont should not become an “impediment” to PSNI helicopters being allowed to cross the border to tackle the plague of dangerous driving and cross-border crime. 

Last month Brendan O’Connor from the Donegal Garda Representative Association (GRA), pointing out Co Donegal was isolated from the gardai’s own air support in Dublin, called on the police chopper to be allowed to cross into the county in the event of high speed chases and in emergencies.

“Situations arise quite regularly with these vehicles that are failing to stop and they do pose a serious risk to life on both sides of the border. So we would see no reason why it shouldn’t be explored,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Air support comes without the complication of ground crews in relation to jurisdiction or fire arms carrying. It really is only an eye in the sky, gathering evidence. 

“There is a precedent set. The Irish air corps helicopter was involved in fire fighting in south Armagh during the summer on Sliabh Gullion, and the RAF have over the years played a part in many air sea rescues in Irish jurisdiction, so surely it would make sense.”

Mr O’Connor said both forces could provide support to each other “and contribute to tackling this plague of dangerous driving, people failing to stop.” 

“We’re in an era of cooperation and we constantly hear it being said by senior officers on both forces of its great benefits,” he said. “Criminals don’t recognise the border.”

Following suggestions however that the stalled powersharing at Stormont could provide a stumbling block to such a strategy, local independent councillor Patsy Kelly said senior civil servants would be able to expedite any proposed plans.

“You see this already happening with coast guards in both jurisdictions,” Cllr Kelly said.

“Certainly I think this could work as it would merely be an extension of the cross-border cooperation that already exists between the two forces. The police and the gardai already have a good working relationship but this could make it closer again.

“I would be all for it because criminals don’t recognise the border.

“And I don’t believe what’s happening at Stormont would hamper any plans. The Policing Board is still meeting and senior civil servants are taking decisions. I don’t think the impasse at Stormont should be permitted to stop something as worthwhlie as this. It shouldn’t become an impediment.”

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