Tuesday, 1 March 1983
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. De Rossa: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the representations he has made or plans to make to the United States Government concerning  the discovery last March of an electronic device for monitoring submarine activity off the Kerry coast; the measures he has taken to establish from that Government how the device came to be off the Irish coast; the reason the device in question was returned to the US Government; where and on what date it was returned; the payments received from the US Government to compensate Irish taxpayers for the costs involved in removing and transporting the device; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. De Rossa: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will state, arising from the discovery in March 1982 of an electronic device for monitoring submarine activity off the Kerry coast, whether any more of these devices have been located in Irish waters; whether any of these have been located with the approval of the Irish Government; and if he will make a statement on the possible implications for Irish neutrality of this discovery.
From inquiries made of the US Embassy here I understand that the object to which the Deputy's question refers was not placed in Irish territorial waters nor on the seabed and that it had broken off a US vessel somewhere at sea. Consequently I have not made representations to the US Government in the sense suggested by the Deputy, nor do I plan to do so.
The object in question was a trailing antenna. This is simply a communications device, much like a car radio antenna, although considerably larger, which is trailed behind vessels, usually submarines, and is used to pick up any acoustic signals in the area.
Together with a second such object which had been found at an earlier date, the object in question was returned to the US authorities as a normal courtesy and shipped from Cork on 8 April 1982 by an Irish civilian haulage firm engaged by the US authorities. No reimbursement was sought from the US Government for the  very small costs involved in bringing the object found near Dingle to Collins Barracks, Cork.
I am not aware that any objects of the kind mentioned have been found in Irish waters since March 1982. The Government have not received any requests for assistance in locating such objects in Irish waters and have not offered such assistance to other countries. I would not accept that the finding of the object referred to carries any implications for Irish neutrality.
Mr. De Rossa: The Minister stated that the Government were not asked for nor did they offer any assistance. Can the Minister tell the House that there are no such devices off the Irish coast which are used either by the British Government, the American Government or any other Government for the monitoring of shiping off the coast?
Mr. Cooney: As I indicated in the reply, the apparatus in question was not, as the Deputy thought, an electronic device for monitoring submarine activities. It was a trailing antenna. I have no information about electronic devices.
Mr. De Rossa: The Minister indicated that the antenna, as he described it, is normally fitted to a submarine. Presumably if it belonged to the American Government it must have been an American submarine that was operating off the Irish coast. Can the Minister indicate for what purpose the American submarine was off the Irish coast?
Mr. N. Andrews: Could the Minister indicate if there is any sharing of information about movements of military shipping off the Irish coast in the Atlantic between America and Britain and ourselves? Do we know exactly what is going on in the area or are we just subject to occasional accidents that have occurred such as those affecting our trawlers, and  the suspicion surrounding the Viscount plane crash?
Mr. N. Andrews: Is the Minister satisfied that that is happening in view of the sinking recently of a trawler off the Irish coast and from which the British military authorities admitted responsibility? Is the Minister satisfied that the movement of these ships is on the surface?
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