Wednesday, 10 December 1980
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. O'Keeffe: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will outline the circumstances in which Irish troops in the Lebanon have been flown to and from that country in aircraft other than Aer Lingus planes.
Mr. Lenihan: The Deputy will be aware that the Irish contingent serving  with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is replaced every six months. The contract for the carrying out of this rotation by aircraft is put out to tender by the United Nations. Since we joined UNIFIL in May 1978, the Irish contingent has been rotated five times and Aer Lingus have carried out four of these rotations. The contract for the most recent rotation was awarded by the United Nations to a Danish airline, MAERSK AIR, which submitted a lower tender than that of Aer Lingus. The rotation was carried out in three groups of flights on 23 October, 30 October and 6 November last.
It is, of course, preferable from our point of view to have the rotation carried out by the national airline and I understand that Aer Lingus have already indicated that they will be competing for the next contract.
Mr. O'Keeffe: Is the Minister aware of very many complaints from the troops in regard to the transit arrangements on the last occasion and the difficulties in regard to reduced luggage allowance? Bearing that in mind, will he use whatever diplomatic efforts are available to us to ensure that no one but our national carrier will have this contract, bearing in mind that we are providing the troops?
Mr. Lenihan: I have heard the complaints referred to by the Deputy and I have brought them to the attention of the UN and made the point of view put by the Deputy known to the UN. At the same time, this matter must be approached on a tendering basis. It is not the first time this has happened. During the period we were in Cyprus the rotation was carried out on at least three occasions by other airlines. Naturally, we want to see Aer Lingus doing the job. I will put the point of view expressed by the Deputy to them.
Mr. O'Keeffe: The Minister is doing that. We have an additional weapon in that the UN are very much behind in their payments to us arising out of this operation. I suggest to the Minister that  we have a number of negotiating weapons that we can use in insisting that our national airline is used on these occasions.
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