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Ex-garda chief says cuts to Irish navy will mean more cocaine trafficking across Atlantic

It comes as two more Navy ships have been taken out of operation due to staff shortages

A seizure of cocaine in the Dutch port of Rotterdam

Clodagh MeaneySunday World

An ex-garda chief has said that cuts to the Irish navy will inevitably allow South American cartels to accelerate operations to move cocaine into Europe.

The Irish Examiner has reported that ex-Garda assistant commissioner Michael O’Sullivan has warned of the potential danger.

”Because of the geographical position of Ireland, it’s the most westerly point of Europe and covers the North Atlantic, there’s no other navy that can get a vessel as fast into the North Atlantic as the Irish navy,” he said.

Mr O’Sullivan stepped down as executive director of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre, Narcotics (MAOC-N) early last year.

“I’ve been at meetings and intelligence came in and you needed eyes and ears in the North Atlantic,” he said, explaining that the Irish navy could “scramble in a matter of hours”.

“You needed a vessel, with radar, to try and pick out your suspect vessel. That’s the starting point of any investigation — to get sight of the vessel.”

“Those coordinates are not going to last forever, so the faster you can get a vessel out there the better. If it takes too long, the vessel’s gone,” he added, saying that Navies in Western Europe are the eyes and ears of law enforcement.

“The first line of defence against international drugs trafficking from South America are the naval services and the Irish navy are that in the North Atlantic.”

“The Irish navy are very professional, very dedicated, and very motivated. But now they have four ships, half of what they had.”

Mr O’Sullivan added that cartels will captitalise on it.

“There are guys in Colombia who are looking for every angle and every way, ships, planes, and submarines, to send drugs over the Atlantic.”

“They will go to areas of least resistance and if they see a gap on the North Atlantic route they will send vessels there. The Irish navy doesn’t have the resources and that creates problems.”

“Do I fear the fact the reduction of naval vessels patrolling off the Irish coast will present opportunities? Yes, I think so.”

It comes as Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs and Defence Minister Micheál Martin told the Dáil that two more Navy ships were to be placed into operational reserve because there is enough staff to man them.

It brings the total number of ships out of action to four.

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