Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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226. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the degree to which it is intended to upgrade and update or re-equip all sea-going vessels available to the Naval Service in line with the need to carry out coastal surveillance for obvious reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24059/22]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure the operational capacity of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained and developed. This is to enable the Defence Forces to carry out the roles assigned by Government, as set out in the White Paper on defence. Equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are being considered in the context of the lifetime of the White Paper on defence as part of the capability development and equipment development planning, EDP, process. Further additions to the equipment development plan are under consideration.

The Department of Defence has received a capital allocation under the national development plan of €566 million over the 2022 to 2025 timeframe. Within that capital allocation, the defence annual capital budget for 2022 is €141 million. Over recent years the capital budget has also been augmented through the reallocation of a pay underspend within the Defence Vote.

The Naval Service Vessel Renewal and Replacement Programme is ongoing, this programme includes radar and other equipment upgrades along with the replacement of Naval Service Reserve motor launches. The programme of works for the midlife refit and upgrade of LÉ Róisín has been completed, while works are ongoing on LÉ Niamh. Marine Advisers have been appointed to support the procurement of multi-role vessel to replace the flagship, LÉ Eithne, with work underway that will inform a public tender competition in due course. Two Inshore Patrol Vessels have been purchased from the New Zealand Government to replace LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara, it is expected these vessels will be transported to Ireland in 2023 following the completion of a programme of works.

The Naval Service is equipped with a various surveillance equipment in order to undertake the roles assigned by Government, including certain capabilities that allow for underwater search and surveying, for example, an underwater remotely operated vehicle, ROV, and a magnetometer system. As part of the ongoing development of capabilities, further capabilities that will enhance the Naval Service’s under-sea situational awareness, such as multibeam echo sounder systems, are also being developed.

The Government established an independent Commission on the Defence Forces in December 2020. The work of the Commission encompassed the identification of appropriate capabilities, structures and staffing and their report will inform decisions regarding the future development of the Defence Forces. The Commission's recommendations are currently being considered.

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