Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 188 - EU funding [Defence Forces] operations [39967/12].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 188 - EU funding [Defence Forces] operations [39967/12]. (20 Sep 2012)

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188. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the EU contributes to coastal surveillance and intelligence gathering by air and sea with particular reference to the need to prevent smuggling, monitor fishing activity and contribute to European defence in general by way of on-going air and sea patrols in view of the pivotal nature of such work in terms of European defence and security; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39967/12] 

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): The Naval Service conducts routine maritime surveillance patrols throughout Ireland’s maritime jurisdiction. The primary day-to-day tasking of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State’s fishery protection legislation and its obligations as a member of the European Union. In its fishery protection role the Naval Service is committed to having at least three vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time.


It should be noted that responsibility for the prevention of drug-trafficking and people trafficking rests primarily with the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Síochána respectively. However, the White Paper on Defence provides for a security role for the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in this work. In this regard all Naval Service vessels are multi-tasked in the sense that they also undertake general surveillance, security and other duties while on patrol. These activities assist in countering all form of smuggling and illegal fishery activity.


Naval Service patrols are complemented by assistance provided by the Air Corps. The Air Corps Maritime Squadron carries out aerial surveillance of territorial waters using the two CASA maritime patrol aircraft which were acquired in 1994 under the terms of the 1991 to 1995 Fishery Protection Programme. These aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance and communication equipment which offers aerial assistance to the Naval Service in patrolling the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone. The EU has provided funding towards the cost of purchase and upgrade of these aircraft.


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 and the Naval Service and the Air Corps in discharging this important mission.


Funding is available from the EU under the Fisheries Control Programmes to strengthen fishery surveillance systems in Member State countries. The Naval Service and the Air Corps through my Department and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, apply on an annual basis for EU funding for projects that enhance their fisheries surveillance role. In recent years, my Department has received €0.325m (2010) and €1.073m (2011). The ship replacement programme accounted for €0.9m of the 2011 funding.


In relation to maritime surveillance generally, an Inter-Departmental Maritime Surveillance Working Group, chaired by the Department of Transport, was established under the auspices of the Marine Co-ordination Group. The Group is working towards the creation of a common information-sharing environment to enhance safety and security within the Irish maritime domain.


Ireland along with other EU Member States participate in the EU Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N). This Centre has led to a greater focus on intelligence exchange amongst countries to tackle large drug shipments by sea. MAOC-N was set up by seven European countries and is designed as an international co-ordination force.


Dáil Éireann Debate – Written answers
Thursday, 20 September 2012

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