Wednesday, 7 July 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
26. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Defence if contract negotiations in respect of the purchase of new ships for Naval Service have been completed; and if he will make a statement on matter. [29924/10]
38. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the progress made regarding the commitment given in Renewed Programme for Government that the Naval Service vessel replacement programme will be advanced within the resources made available by the Government. [30169/10]
Deputy Tony Killeen: Os rud é go bhfuil an freagra ar Cheisteanna Uimh. 26 agus 38 díreach mar an gcéanna leis an fhreagra ar an gceist atá díreach déanta againn, ní gá dom an freagra a léamh amach arís.
Deputy David Stanton: Will the Minister outline the demands and stresses on the eight Naval Service vessels? Will he agree this small flotilla is under much pressure in dealing with fisheries protection, illegal drug interception and other duties?
Has the Minister considered any contingency plans to replace any of these vessels, either by leasing or otherwise, to keep the flotilla up to strength in the event of one of them becoming non-operational?
Deputy Tony Killeen: I do not want to give the impression that a flotilla of eight is comfortable. The job is, however, being well done within existing resources. LE Aoife was off the west coast of Clare recently and LE Aisling will be in Galway docks next year celebrating 30 years. LE Niamh is returning from a long and positive trip to South America in which it was part of the celebrations of the Irish connection to the historical freedom movements in Argentina and Chile. It also visited US east coast areas which have strong Irish maritime links.
Deputy Brian O’Shea: The Minister was dealing recently with the naval section of the Reserve Defence Forces. It was proposed it could become involved in some of the patrol work already done by the Naval Service through the purchase of a specific craft which would cost €1 million. When I last raised it, the Minister indicated to me that the craft in question may not be suitable for the adverse waters off the west coast, where most patrols are done.
I understand the total number of out-of-operation days for all vessels in the flotilla last year came to 200. Will this increase this year, now that they are coming to the end of their lifespan? Is it better value for money to acquire new and speedier vessels, rather than just repairing the existing ones? Is the 2014 delivery date for the three new vessels just a notional date?
Deputy Tony Killeen: The issue of the date will only arise sometime in the second half of this year if I get the approval I referred to earlier. The further out that date goes, the further out the delivery date in 2014 goes.
Deputy David Stanton: What proportion of EU waters are patrolled by the Naval Service? Has it increased recently? Has there been any discussion with our EU partners on our assisting patrols in these waters by providing extra naval capabilities?
Deputy Tony Killeen: Historically, there have been four extensions to the exclusion area for which we are responsible from three to six to 12 to 200 miles with some additional shelf areas added. Relative to Ireland’s size it is a very large proportion of EU waters for fisheries protection.
With regard to patrols against drug shipments, the equipment available in both the vessels and their supporting aircraft has assisted enormously. We frequently forget to acknowledge that Irish fishermen have been extraordinarily helpful in drawing the authorities’ attention to certain vessels. There are two surveillance systems in use and I am happy as to how well-equipped they are. Deputy Stanton may have seen the live picture at the Haulbowline naval headquarters and the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority headquarters in Clonakilty which shows the location of every vessel in Irish territorial waters. Of course, one still needs the vessels to make the interceptions.
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