Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Defence Forces Strength
Bernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
Question 407: To ask the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself regarding the availability of the necessary resources to facilitate rapid deployment of Navy and Air Corps services in the event of major or minor emergencies locally or nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17652/11]
Alan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
Whilst the Defence Forces are not a Principal Response Agency, as defined in the Framework for Major Emergency Management, they provide assistance in an Aid to the Civil Authority (ATCA) role under the multi-agency Framework in response to emergencies that may arise. Both the Air Corps and Naval Service assist regularly in major and minor emergencies that arise. In May of this year, the Air Corps responded to a request from the Local Authorities to assist in fire-fighting efforts in Counties Donegal and Mayo where forest and gorse fires had broken out. The Naval Service is regularly called upon to assist the Irish Coast Guard with search and rescue emergencies and pollution threats. In relation to Naval Service resources, following an open tender competition a contract was awarded in October 2010 to Babcock Marine in the UK for the provision of two new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Naval Service. Preparations for the construction of these new vessels have commenced and the first new vessel is scheduled for delivery in early 2014. The second vessel will follow one year later. The acquisition of these modern new vessels, combined with a continuous process of refurbishment and repair, will ensure that the Naval Service will continue to be resourced at a level that will provide for their rapid deployment to emergencies that may arise.
There has been very significant investment in resources for the Air Corps in recent years. The comprehensive investment programme included the acquisition of Pilatus training aircraft at a total cost of â‚¬60m, two light utility EC 135 helicopters at a cost of â‚¬12.8m, six utility AW 139 helicopters at a cost of â‚¬75m, and a major mid life upgrade on the two CASA maritime patrol aircraft at a cost of â‚¬16.5m. The main expenditure in the Air Corps in 2011 relates to the maintenance and Power by the Hours contracts set up to keep the fleet fully operational. The acquisition of these aircraft together with their maintenance programmes ensure that the Air Corps have the necessary resources available to respond to taskings they are assigned including local and national emergencies.
I am satisfied that the Air Corps and Naval Service have the necessary resources available to them to assist in emergencies that may arise.