Thursday, 8 March 1990
Dáil Éireann Debate
10. Mr. G. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence the number of days in 1989 on which ships of the Irish Naval Service were unable to put to sea, on a ship by ship basis; the reasons in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
26. Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the number of occasions during the past six months on which Naval Service vessels have been tied up because of shortage of personnel; if it is intended to increase the number of Naval Service personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Naval Service have seven patrol vessels, two of which LE Orla and LECiara were acquired in late 1988 and went into operational service in January 1989. Naval Service vessels are taken out of service from time to time to allow for crew leave, scheduled maintenance and other contingencies.
During the year 1988, Naval Service vessels steamed a total of 100,611 nautical miles and spent 933 days of patrol. The corresponding figures for 1989 are 108,345 nautical miles and 1,034 days respectively. In other words, patrolling increased by about 11 per cent.
It is intended that more than 100 recruits will be enlisted in the Naval Service in 1990. Forty recruits have already taken up duty, and it is expected that a further 60 will be enlisted by end March 1990.
Mr. G. O'Sullivan: Does the Minister not agree that the serious shortage of personnel in the Naval Service has created problems which are of major concern? Taking into consideration that Ireland has to patrol 20 per cent of EC fishing grounds, does the Minister not agree that this creates major problems for our Marine and Defence Forces.
Mr. Lenihan: I agree and that is why I am taking on 100 recruits now. Forty recruits have already taken up duty and another 60 recruits will be enlisted by the end of this month. I hope these 100 recruits will be trained by the end of this year. This should go some way towards meeting that problem. I am trying to remedy this problem to some extent.
Mr. Lenihan: No, these new recruits should meet our requirements. I want to emphasise that we are adopting a new system of recruitment to the forces generally whereby new personnel will be recruited every year so that we do not have to deal with a delay in recruitment. We will decide on a figure each year, announce it in December and take on the recruits month by month during the following year. This will be a continuing process.
These 100 recruits will meet our immediate requirements. There is also the additional factor that because of the advancements in technology the equipment being installed in the boats enable them to be crewed with fewer personnel. I am satisfied that these 100 recruits will meet our immediate requirements. However next year's requirements will have to be met by recruiting more personnel, starting next December. This will be the practice every December to cater for the years ahead.
Mr. Ryan: Is the Minister in a position to say when the 100 extra recruits he mentioned will be suitably trained and capable of taking up service? I understand that it could be a considerable period before they are adequately trained and they will not be able to solve the problem immediately.
Mr. Lenihan: Their training is very good and ships are now equipped with the best technology available. These recruits receive excellent training and they emerge as first class trained personnel who can handle these ships. I am satisfied that we are coming to grips with this problem and we will resolve it within the next few months.
Mr. Lenihan: It has not been consistent. We bought two extra Naval vessels but they will not be fully operational until these trainees are taken on board. These recruits are being trained at present and these vessels will be fully operational by the middle of the year, at the outside.
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