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Pity the fuel Calls for crackdown on fuel launderers as toxic waste wreaks havoc on border area

The people who are doing this are utterly unscrupulous and are causing untold damage to the local environment"

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Frustrated: Justin McNulty shows us the three huge pods of fuel waste dumped on the road outside Forkhill

Frustrated: Justin McNulty shows us the three huge pods of fuel waste dumped on the road outside Forkhill

Frustrated: Justin McNulty shows us the three huge pods of fuel waste dumped on the road outside Forkhill

An MLA has called for police to crack down on “unscrupulous” illegal fuel launderers after more toxic waste was dumped at an Armagh beauty spot.

Justin McNulty spoke to the Sunday World after three more giant pods of fuel waste were dumped on the side of the road near Forkhill.

Cross-border fuel smuggling is believed to have helped finance the Provisional IRA with criminals like Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy at the forefront.

Four years ago the Republic’s taxman announced such activity had been “wiped-out” due to new preventative measures but fuel laundering remains big business, according to Mr McNulty.

The SDLP representative says it’s at least the 12th time it has happened in the exact same spot in ten years.

And he says it’s time the PSNI put some more resources into catching those behind the disgusting practice.

“This is residue from laundered fuel and it’s extremely toxic, it’s the worst kind of pollutant because it destroys everything it comes into contact with,” says the former All-Ireland football champion.

“The people who are doing this are utterly unscrupulous and are causing untold damage to the local environment.

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The toxic waste spills from one of the dumped pods

The toxic waste spills from one of the dumped pods

The toxic waste spills from one of the dumped pods

“This is a rural and beautiful part of the world and there’s a pretty country stream running under the road here and if you look at the colour of the water you will see there’s diesel in it which has leaked.

“You can see why the criminals use this spot because it’s so remote and with no through traffic and plenty of good tree cover it makes it ideal to get in and out easily without being detected.

“I think this is at least the 12th time this has happened in this spot and it’s time the authorities took this more seriously.”

Mr McNulty says more need to be done as well because leaked diesel residue is finding its way into local coastal waters.

“This area isn’t that far from the sea and this isn’t the kind of stuff we want getting into our coastal waters,” he said.

“The police need to come down hard on the people behind this. The police are aware of the issue, I mentioned it to them recently myself but they’ve not been able to make any arrests of anyone connected to this behaviour.

“Yet this is something that’s being found dumped carelessly on the side of our roads every other week.

“It’s left for the local council and environmental services to clean up afterwards. They do a great job and I’ve been here when they have been clearing a site and they are visibly distraught at the damage the pollutant has caused.

“Often by the time this stuff is discovered it’s too late and the damage has already been done.

“The major buzzword around the place is the ‘environment’ so that’s why I can’t understand why more isn’t being done about this behaviour.

“It’s environmental crime at its most heinous. We teach children in every school about the importance of protecting our environment and yet adults who should know better are ravaging our countryside and rivers all in the pursuit of profit.

“This is not a victimless crime – it’s hard-working taxpayers who are burdened with the enormous clean-up costs.”

Fuel smuggling has been big business especially in border areas for decades and the profits are believed to have been used to fund terror groups, particularly the Provisional IRA.

One of the most notorious smugglers was Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy who was allegedly a member of the IRA Army Council.

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Key figure: Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy

Key figure: Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy

Key figure: Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy

Murphy was named as a key figure in the fuel smuggling industry in British government files which were made public a few years ago.

When gardaí finally raided his cross-border farm they discovered an oil pipe that straddled the border and could flow either way with illegal fuel – depending on which country had the cheapest prices.

Up to one-eighth of Northern Ireland’s total petrol consumption was ending up across the border, officials in the North had estimated.

Between April 1989 and September 2005, 16 seizures and detections of smuggled fuel were linked to individuals known to ‘Slab’ Murphy.

There have been efforts made on both sides of the border to put illegal fuel launderers out of business and four years ago the Republic’s taxman announced that border fuel smuggling and laundering had been virtually “wiped out”.

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Justin McNulty in picturesque south Armagh

Justin McNulty in picturesque south Armagh

Justin McNulty in picturesque south Armagh

A Dublin Revenue official told the state’s public spending watchdog that a survey in 2016 of filling stations provided “authoritative evidence” that the apparent multi-million-euro trade was close to being put out of business.

“The fuel laundering problem has been effectively eliminated,” the accounting officer told the Comptroller and Auditor General.

That came after a joint exercise by Revenue and the UK’s Revenue and Customs to introduce a new fuel marker on both sides of the border in 2015 to make it harder to launder diesel.

The claim, however, was rubbished in many quarters and Justin McNulty said fuel laundering and smuggling was clearly still a major problem.

“I’ve not seen any cessation of fuel laundering and from what I’ve seen over the last five years it’s just as bad as ever,” he explained.

“It’s a still a major cost to the taxpayer on both sides of the border as well as a loss of revenue.”

Earlier this month the Dublin government published a list of the south’s top tax defaulters and an insolvent fuel company run by a man from Keady, Co Armagh, was top of the list.

According to the list Damien McGleenan – who has been the target of several cross-border smuggling investigations – is in debt to the state to the tune of €9.1 million.

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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