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Home > 150. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to promoting greater cooperation and knowledge sharing between the coastguard, the Navy and the Air Corps to ensure that the waters surrounding Ireland are safer for seafarers and coastal communities and preventing their use for the illegal importation of illicit drugs. [6341/08]

[Oireachtas] 150. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to promoting greater cooperation and knowledge sharing between the coastguard, the Navy and the Air Corps to ensure that the waters surrounding Ireland are safer for seafarers and coastal communities and preventing their use for the illegal importation of illicit drugs. [6341/08]. (19 Feb 2008)

External website: http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/2008/02/19/00049...


Minister for Defence (Deputy Willie O’Dea): The Irish Coast Guard has overall responsibility for the provision of maritime Search and Rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue region, for pollution and salvage response in the marine environment, and for marine safety awareness. Responsibility for the prevention of drug trafficking rests primarily with An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners. However, the White Paper on Defence provides for a role for the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in relation to Search and Rescue and drugs interdiction.

In this regard, the Naval Service and Air Corps provide support to the civil authorities as the need arises and within their available capability. A Service Level Agreement is currently being finalised between my Department and the Department of Transport for the provision of services to the Irish Coast Guard by the Defence Forces. The overall operation and implementation of the Service Level Agreement will be monitored by a Steering Group comprising representatives of my Department, the Defence Forces, the Department of Transport and the Irish Coast Guard.

At an operational level, the parties to the Agreement are committed to the achievement of its objectives through co-operation and partnership between the main service providers, namely the Naval Service, the Air Corps, the Army, and the Irish Coast Guard. Officials from my Department and the Defence Forces are represented on the Irish Marine Search and Rescue Committee, which is chaired by the Irish Coast Guard. The IMSAR Committee meets twice yearly and its functions are to keep under review the general arrangements for marine search and rescue in Ireland, to consider the implications of any intended changes in equipment, deployment or organisation in any arm of the Committee, and to consider as necessary liaison with neighbouring search and rescue organisations and any regional search and rescue agreements in which Ireland is a participant.

The Defence Forces also participate in regular search and rescue exercises with the Irish Coast Guard. Government measures to improve law enforcement in relation to drugs, including the establishment in 1993 of a Joint Task Force involving An Garda Síochána, the Customs Service and the Naval Service, have helped to maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating drug trafficking. The Air Corps provide air support and, on occasion, carry the Customs National Drugs Team in an observational capacity for the purpose of monitoring vessels suspected of drug trafficking and other illegal activities. There is close co-operation between the civil authorities – An Garda Síochána and the Customs Service - and the Naval Service and the Air Corps in discharging this important mission. The Naval Service, An Garda Síochána, and the Customs Service are represented on the National Maritime Security Committee, as is the Irish Coast Guard. This committee provides another useful forum for the exchange of experience and information between the Defence Forces and the civil authorities.

I am satisfied with the progress is being made in regard to promoting greater co-operation and knowledge sharing between the Irish Coast Guard and the Defence Forces with regard to maritime safety. I am similarly satisfied that the extent of Naval Service and Air Corps reconnaissance, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, the Customs Service and the Irish Coast Guard, has had and will continue to have a major and beneficial impact in deterring drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

Vol. 647 No. 3

Written Answers

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

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