Dáil debates

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Priority Questions

Military Intelligence.

3:00 pm

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Question 1: To ask the Minister for Defence the amount of funding provided for military intelligence surveillance for the years 2001 to 2005 and to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38348/06]

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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There is no specific allocation of funds for military intelligence. The cost involved is partly met from funds provided from the Secret Service Vote, which is accounted for by the Minister for Finance, and partly from the relevant subheads of the Defence Vote, including pay from subhead B and allowances from subhead C.

The total expended on military intelligence is not separately compiled and I do not consider that it would be appropriate to disclose such information.

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Acting Chairman and apologise for my late entry to the Chamber.

I thank the Minister for his reply and appreciate the fact that his response is shrouded in a certain amount of mystery. Notwithstanding that, very little additional money has ever been put in place for military intelligence. This should be done, particularly in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks. While I realise the Garda Síochána has responsibility for gathering intelligence in the first instance, does the Minister agree the sum of €800,000 that goes to the Secret Service under the remit of the Minister for Finance — to which he referred — is a small amount of money? The global terrorist threat knows no geographic boundaries.

Will the Minister consider the idea of expanding the role of military intelligence? Perhaps he could enter discussions with the military establishment to examine how it could assist or work in co-operation with the Garda to enhance our intelligence-gathering role.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks, the Government reviewed security arrangements, particularly in respect of military intelligence. Consequently, in the past three or four years, provision for military intelligence has been substantially increased. The numbers of Army staff engaged in such work has increased substantially in the past three or four years.

The sum of €800,000 to which Deputy Timmins refers is misleading as it only constitutes an extremely small element of the total expenditure on military intelligence. As for the Deputy's question on whether I would consider asking those involved in military intelligence to co-operate with the Garda, the latter force has primary responsibility for security in the State. However, military intelligence personnel work well with the Garda.

The Director of Military Intelligence reports to me as Minister at least once a month. He also reports to the Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff on the support side of the Army. In turn, the Chief of Staff reports to the National Security Committee, of which he is a member. The role of military intelligence has expanded, particularly in respect of any potential threat from the Middle East or from Islamic terrorists. For reasons Members will understand, I cannot go into too much detail in this respect. However, I assure them that resources devoted to military intelligence have increased substantially and the figure of €800,000 is misleading in terms of the total expenditure on military intelligence.

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister for his response. I have a final supplementary question. The Minister is the chairperson of the task force on national emergency planning. While one might disagree on its implementation, does he agree it would be beneficial to include an intelligence section within its remit, comprising the Garda, the Army, Customs and Excise, the Revenue Commissioners and possibly a communications element?

I realise that no matter how much money one devotes to protecting the State from terrorist attack — one could spend billions — it may not be successful. However, the assignment of sufficient resources to prevention and surveillance can greatly assist in thwarting attacks. If one lacks inter-agency operability, people may get through the net. However, if such groups were brought together, one's intelligence remit would be strengthened. Will the Minister consider the development of such a concept?

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I will take on board any constructive suggestions. It is impossible, as countries such as Israel and the United states will testify, to have a system that provides absolute protection against the possibility of a terrorist attack. Nevertheless, the emergency planning committee includes the Garda and the Army, as well as the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Defence. It receives regular threat assessments when it meets. Deputy Timmins has suggested the Revenue Commissioners, Customs and Excise and a number of similar bodies should be brought onto the emergency planning task force. I will look into this aspect. While there is probably some reason they are not already there, I will consider the suggestion.