NET TIGHTENING ON FUEL CRIMINALS – BUT MORE RESOURCES NEEDED

1 June 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The excellent, informative presentation and subsequent constructive debate that took place at Monday’s meeting of Co Monaghan Joint Policing Committee on fuel crime highlighted a number of important dimensions of how the problem is being tackled in our circulation area and in the country as a whole – some encouraging, some worrying.
It is clear that the Revenue Enforcement staff and the Gardai are experiencing some significant success in disrupting the operation of this illicit enterprise, and in making amenable to the courts a good number of those – on the lower rungs at least – who are profiting at the public’s expenses from involvement in what has evolved into a sophisticated and highly lucrative criminal operation.
Our police and Revenue officers tasked with dealing with this crime are to be commended on the success that they have experienced to date – as too are those in the local government service who have had to institute preventative measures against the potentially catastrophic environmental impact of the waste by-products of fuel laundering, material often wantonly discarded throughout the countryside.
It is clear that the net has begun to tighten on the practitioners of this vile activity – yet, despite the best efforts of our enforcement authorities, the gaps in that net remain too porous to bring about its eradication.
It was evident from Monday’s presentation and discussion that greater and more concentrated resources must be devoted by this State, and a co-ordinated offensive launched involving the co-operation of the forces of law and order on both sides of the Border, in order to establish a method of combating the crime that constitutes the powerful deterrent required to persuade its perpetrators to desist.
An important contribution in this regard can be made by the legitimate operators of retail fuel and associated trades in this country.
Like many forms of crime, the laundering of fuel thrives because there is a market for it, and it is disturbing to contemplate that a nationwide network of outlets willing to purvey the illegal produce of the laundry operators exists with others who engage in its transport for their own gain.
The majority of responsible fuel retailers and haulage operators in this country who pride themselves on keeping their own operations clean are very clearly suffering from the willingness of a mercenary few to traffic in the illicit product and conspire with the organised criminality behind it.
All in these trades have a responsibility not only to keep their own houses in order but also to insist on adherence to a binding code of practice that marks any involvement with illegality with the stigma of zero tolerance.
And of course the public too, have a function of vigilance to discharge, and a duty as exigent as that on the responsible retailer or transporter to be on the alert and to report their suspicions to the proper authorities.
Heightened co-operation from the responsible businessperson and the right-minded motorist would be of great assistance to the Revenue and the Gardai in making further progress in curbing this crime.
No-one can any longer plead ignorance as to the enormous potential for environmental harm that the processes used to produce illegal fuel possess, or the sinister criminal elements that profit from this enterprise – the moral and ethical considerations arising must outweigh in any responsible and law-abiding person’s mind the temptations that might arise from their own reduced resources and the rising price of fuel generally.
While the new licensing legislation spoken of at Monday’s meeting will be of considerable assistance in exercising increased vigilance over the storage, distribution and selling of fuel products, for it to be effective it must be backed up by an intensification of resources.
More revenue officers and more Gardai are clearly needed on the ground, not just as a visible deterrent at checkpoints but as a properly equipped and readily available rapid response weapon when intelligence as to the manufacture, transport and retailing of illicit fuel comes to hand.
In this regard it is to be hoped that communication on the issue with Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will lead to meaningful contacts with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and the introduction of an adequately resourced all-Ireland strategy that will ensure in the coming years that there is no longer any sanctuary north or south of the Border for the perpetrators of a crime that continues to inflict severe damage on important parts of our economy, and carries an ever-glowering threat to our natural environment.

THE VOICE OF THE VOTE
Today marks decision day in the Referendum on the Fiscal Treaty, and we feel it appropriate to impart a final exhortation to our readership to cast their vote on the issue presented to them for their determination.
In recent weeks we have attempted to accord ample and fairly apportioned space in our pages to the proponents of both a Yes and No decision.
While we have editorially refrained from siding with either viewpoint in the debate, we would share the activists’ desire for all those who have a vote in the referendum to exercise their franchise, and advise that they do so by weighing the issues carefully and making the decision that best accords with their own outlook and life priorities.
The campaign has not been a particularly inspiring one, and the national backcloth to it is that of a bleak economic landscape cloaked in an austerity-painted darkness not yet illuminated by the dawning of stimulus.
Many, our of political disenchantment, perhaps, or a conviction that what the country decides will make little immediate difference to their circumstances or might quickly be rendered irrelevant by events elsewhere in Europe, may feel disinclined to vote.
That, we respectfully suggest, would be the wrong decision, a crime against self-esteem.
Our democratic structures, imperfect as they often seem, embody a regard for individual freedom that can grow denigrated if we are careless about the exercise of our constitutional privileges and liberties.
Perhaps the most fundamental of these is the right to vote – a right that history teaches us was hard-won, and that contemporary world events caution us is frequently not an automatic societal entitlement.
Those we see on the news standing up to tyranny and injustice in other parts of the world, even if it costs them their liberty or indeed their lives, are doing so because they feel themselves voiceless, deprived of the fundamental human need to have a say in the determination of their individual and national destinies.
Those of us who have such a voice should always be very hesitant about neglecting an opportunity of using it to make ourselves heard.

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