Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 580, 581 – Defence force [34449/22] [34450/22].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 580, 581 – Defence force [34449/22] [34450/22]. (28 Jun 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2022...

580. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which adequate coastal surveillance can be undertaken by the Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34449/22]

 581. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which Air Corps and Naval Service coastal surveillance continues to be focused on the prevention of drug running or other illegal activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34450/22]


Simon Coveney Minister for Defence

I propose to take Questions Nos. 580 and 581 together.


My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.


The Naval Service, as the State's principal sea-going agency, is tasked with a variety of defence and other roles. While the main 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, it also carries out a number of other non-fishery related tasks such as search and rescue, diving operations, drugs interdiction as well as many more. At any one time, the Naval Service can have a number of ships that are on active operations around the Irish EEZ whilst a number of others are undergoing routine resupply, maintenance and down time for ships companies.


The Naval Service maintain a close working relationship with Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC (N)) the EU anti-drugs agency. In 2021, the Defence Forces, in particular the Naval Service and Air Corps received the MAOC (N) Medal of Excellence for their work in assisting in the interception of Trans National Organised Crime vessels transporting drugs to Europe.


The Air Corps Maritime Patrol Squadron carries out aerial surveillance of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) using the two CASA CN 235 maritime patrol aircraft. These aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance and communication equipment that offers aerial assistance to the Naval Service in patrolling the Irish EEZ.


The multi-faceted nature of the role of the Defence Forces in Irish life is an aspect of our Military that I am particularly proud of and this is a key feature of both the Air Corps and Naval Service.


The Deputy will be aware that the Government established an independent Commission on the Defence Forces in December 2020. The Commission was established on foot of a commitment in the Programme for Government, and I, as Minister for Defence, welcomed the publication of the report of the Commission on 9th February last. The Commission has undertaken a significant body of work, encompassing wide-ranging terms of reference. It recommends significant changes for the Defence Forces and Defence provision in Ireland. It covers high level Defence Forces structures, defence capabilities, organisation, culture and human resources, the Reserve Defence Force and funding.


Given the significant recommendations contained in the Report, detailed consideration of these recommendations has been undertaken over the last four months by my Department and the Defence Forces. This has involved significant inter-departmental consultation, and I and my officials have engaged with key stakeholders to ascertain their views. Following this engagement, I intend to return to Government with a proposed response to the Commission’s recommendations and a high-level action plan before the summer recess.

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