Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Movement of Submarines.


asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if a submarine was recently intercepted in Irish waters without showing proper identification; if he will give details of the incident; the representations, if any, which have been made to the country concerned; the procedures which exist for monitoring the movement of submarines through Irish waters on the surface or underwater; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The incident to which I presume the Deputy refers took place on 14 April in Irish territorial waters of the north-west coast of Ireland. As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of international law all vessels have a right of innocent passage through the territorial waters of another State provided that, in the case of submarines, they travel on the surface and fly their flags for identification.

In the case in question on 14 April last, an Irish Naval vessel theLE Aisling in exercise of its normal surveillance activities observed a submarine travelling on the surface while in Irish territorial waters. The submarine was not flying a flag. The Irish patrol vessel approached the submarine and asked that a flag be hoisted. The request was complied with. The vessel was a submarine of the United States Navy.

The incident has been brought to the attention of the United States authorities who have been reminded of the obligation to fly a flag while in territorial waters. In response, the United States authorities have assured the Government that this incident was exceptional and that it is normal practice for United States submarines to comply with this requirement of international law regarding innocent passage.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. Can he indicate how often this type of incident has occured in recent years and whether there have been any other reported incidents involving submarines of the United States or of any other country? Let me draw his attention to another part of the question which asked what procedures are in place to monitor possible traffic of submarines in territorial waters underwater.

To answer the first part of the Deputy's supplementary question, the Government have no record of any other incidents of this nature occurring during the past five years. As I stated in my substantive reply, the submarine was discovered by theLE Aisling in exercise of its normal surveillance activities.

Is the Minister of State saying that we do not have a record of submarines travelling through Irish waters underwater as distinct from on the surface?

What I am saying is that we have no record of any other incident like the one which took place on 14 April occurring during the past five years.

In view of the use of the word "exceptional" by the Minister of State, will he agree that it might be as reasonable to say that the discovery by theLE Aisling of a submarine not surfacing was exceptional in terms of many more instances of this kind which have not yet been reported?

I have no information on incidents that have not been reported.