South Armagh cocaine seizure raises fresh criminality concerns

The DUP’s lead Policing Board representative Trevor Clarke has said the seizure of 118 kilograms of cocaine during a police operation in Jonesborough raises fresh concerns about the upsurge in criminal activity in South Armagh.

By Trevor Clarke MLA

South Antrim

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Commenting after the PSNI confirmed the recovery of the drugs - which had an estimated street value of £10m - the South Antrim DUP MLA said:

‘‘I want to commend the professionalism of local officers who led this very successful operation. It is a timely reminder of the benefits of investing in neighbourhood policing and maintaining a visible and responsive police presence in our communities.

Taking such a large quantity of cocaine out of circulation is a huge boost toward protecting the public. Drugs ruin lives and subject countless families to a lifetime of grief. It is absolutely right, therefore, that the PSNI, with the help of our national crime fighting agencies, prioritise anti-drugs strategies on a day-to-day basis.

This is the largest seizure of cocaine ever in Northern Ireland. In recent months there has also been a worrying trend of attacks on PSNI vehicles in South Armagh. We have also seen several shootings as well as the recovery of a major haul of illegal firearms. This escalation of criminality calls into question the claim that South Armagh should be treated no differently than any other policing district.

I have been clear that the new Chief Constable should take steps to review the decision to adopt sweeping changes to the delivery of policing in Slieve Gullion at the behest of Sinn Fein and other parties. That must include an assessment of the impact of the South Armagh review on trends in crime and threats to officers.

The PSNI have not ruled out a connection between this latest seizure and paramilitary organisations and it is crucial that all possibilities are investigated. Last month at the Policing Board Jon Boutcher committed to clarifying publicly whether the discovery of a cache of guns were linked to the activities of particular criminal or terrorist groups. However little information has been provided to date.

It is vital for public confidence that potential links to organised crime gangs and proscribed organisations, including the Provisional IRA, are robustly investigated. Political expediency should play no part and the public will rightly expect the PSNI to follow the evidence irrespective of where, and to whom, it leads.’’

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