Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 76 & 89 - Naval service patrols [15599/10]

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 76 & 89 - Naval service patrols [15599/10]. (21 Apr 2010)

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76. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence his views on whether the cuts to the number of patrolling days available to the Naval Service undermines the objective of reducing the inflow of illegal drugs here; if he will seek additional funding from the Department of Finance in order that the patrolling cuts may be reversed; and if he will request the Naval Service to focus more of its resources on operations that target criminal drug smugglers as opposed to its current prioritisation of Irish fishers. [15599/10] 

 89. Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Defence the number of patrolling days undertaken by Naval Service vessels in each year from 2005 to 2009 and the planned number for 2010; if he has had discussions with the fishing industry or the customs authority regarding the implications for fishery protection and drug smuggling preventative measures for the planned reduction in patrolling days; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15624/10]
Minister for Defence (Deputy Tony Killeen): I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 89 together.
As part of the Estimates process for 2010, the Department sought to implement measures which would bring about the savings or the equivalent thereof as identified in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programme. As part of this process and to achieve a reduction in current expenditure, the Minister for Defence proposed a cut to the Naval Service patrol days in 2010. The planned number of patrol days for 2010 is 1,480.
The Naval Service provides the maritime element of the Defence Forces and has a general responsibility to meet contingent and actual maritime defence requirements. The Naval Service operates eight general purpose patrol ships. All eight ships are involved in coastal and offshore patrolling and surveillance for the State in that part of the seas where State jurisdiction applies.
The primary day-to-day tasking of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State’s obligations as a member of the European Union. However, as the need arises, Naval Service vessels are deployed to other duties such as aid to the civil power, search and rescue or recovery, and drug interdiction operations.
The current Exclusive Fishery Limits extend to 200 miles offshore and cover an area of 132,000 nautical square miles. The Naval Service currently patrols the entire 200 mile limit and periodically patrols beyond these limits to protect specific fisheries. These patrols are carried out on a regular and frequent basis and are directed to all areas of Irish waters as necessary. The number of Patrol Vessels on patrol in Irish waters at any one time varies between three and eight. The Naval Service is committed to having at least three vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time. All vessels are multi-tasked in the sense that they also undertake general surveillance, security and other duties while on patrol. On any given patrol day, the Naval Service can carry out a number of taskings on behalf of other state agencies such as the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA), an Garda Síochána and the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners.
The SFPA is Ireland’s competent authority for seafood safety and sea fisheries protection. Officials from the Department and the Naval Service have met recently with the SFPA to discuss its priorities and how to optimise fishery patrol days to achieve those priorities having regard to the reduction in the over all number of patrol days.
The number of patrol days undertaken by the Naval Service in the past five years are as follows:
Patrol Days
Naval Service patrols at sea undoubtedly act as a deterrent in combating drug trafficking and illegal fishing. However, increasingly these roles are governed by intelligence led operations and greater cooperation between both national and international agencies.
I am therefore fully confident that the Naval Service will continue to meet all taskings assigned to them within the revised patrol pattern for 2010.
Vol. 707 No. 1  
Written Answers – Naval Service Patrols
Wednesday, 21 April 2010

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