Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Army Weapons.

34.

asked the Minister for Defence if his Department had purchased new rifles; the number purchased; the cost of same; the source from which the rifles were purchased; the types of rifles that were unsuccessfully tendered for; and the use which will be made of the old rifles.

(Limerick West): A contract was recently placed by my Department with Steyr Mannlicher of Austria for the supply of new rifles to the Defence Forces to replace the FN model at present in use. It is not the practice to furnish details regarding the purchase of weapons. All of the tenders received by the Department for the supply of new rifles offered modern assault weapons of 5.56mm calibre. The question of whether to continue any of the FN weapons in service will be decided in due course.

When does the Minister expect to take control of the new weapons from Austria?

(Limerick West): The first consignment, this year, the final consignment, next year.

There seems to be some disquiet about this matter. A number of parliamentary questions were answered, I understand, last year which led the House to believe that a substantial amount of money was made available to purchase the arms and that that money was made available from this year's allocation. I have reason to believe that only a very small quantity of rifles will be purchased in this consignment — something in the region of 2,000 or 3,000 — and I would like the Minister to let me know whether that information is correct.

(Limerick West): It is not correct.

How many rifles are we buying?

(Limerick West): The quantity of rifles being purchased is adequate to meet the needs of the Defence Forces and the replacement of the existing FN rifles.

There is a great cloud of secrecy surrounding the purchase of the rifles. Obviously we are all on the same side; we know we have to get the rifles and it is important to modernise the Army but why the great cloud of secrecy? We know where the rifles are coming from and the type of rifles concerned but I trying to find out the amount of money that will be spent on them in 1988. I think it is not too much to ask that question in the House.

(Limerick West): It is not normal in any situation to disclose tender prices publicly and I am not going to change that position now. An adequate quantity of rifles was purchased to meet the needs of the Army both at present and well into the next century and also to replace the existing FN rifles.

Am I right in saying that the House will never know how much we paid for the new rifles or how many we got?

(Limerick West): As I have said, it is not usual to disclose tender prices or contracts.

That disposes of ordinary questions and questions nominated for priority for today. The next business is not due to resume until 3.45 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 3.40 p.m. and resumed at 3.45 p.m.