Other Questions. - Military Aircraft.

John Gormley

Question:

9 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will confirm that the US Presidential aeroplane, Airforce One, accompanied by a number of fighter jets, overflew Ireland during the week of President Bush's visit to Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29496/03]

I have no knowledge or details of the flight path of the aircraft in question. However, I can confirm that no requests have been received by my Department for the overflight of armed US military aircraft during the period in question.

I thank the Minister for his brief reply. I tabled this question following representations from a journalist that such an aircraft, accompanied by fighter jets, had crossed over Irish territory. It makes sense for such an aircraft flying to Britain to cross Irish territory. What other route could it take?

Is the Minister confident his Department is always notified about military aircraft crossing over Irish air space? Do we have the necessary technology to detect military aircraft overflying Ireland?

The management, control and monitoring of Irish airspace is a matter for the Department of Transport and the Irish Aviation Authority, the latter having operational responsibility in this area. I have every confidence the appropriate authorities are fully aware of aviation activities taking place in Irish airspace.

If the Minister is confident we are notified about such operations, why is it he has no knowledge of this flight? Is the Department of Foreign Affairs notified about such operations? Which Department has responsibility in this area, is it the Department of Defence? The Minister said he has every confidence the appropriate authorities are fully aware of aviation activities. There seems to be a bit of a dark hole on this occasion in that nobody knows if such an aircraft flew over Irish air space.

I have no details of such a flight. I have every confidence the appropriate authorities would be aware if such a flight had taken place.

Under the terms of Foreign Military Aircraft Order 1952 permission for foreign military aircraft to overfly Irish territory must be sought from the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Such permission is normally granted when the aircraft carries no arms or ammunitions. No request for the overflight of armed military aircraft was received for the period in question.

Can I take it that the Minister would be extremely annoyed if it was established that such an aircraft overflew Ireland without the necessary permission?

I do not deal in hypotheses.

Decentralisation is an hypothesis.

The Minister does not appear to care about the Opposition's concerns in this regard.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

The Deputy must ask a question.

The Minister is contemptuous of this House.

I am not contemptuous, I am merely answering the question by providing the facts. The purpose of this exercise is to provide factual information.

We are not getting answers.

I am not here to respond to speculation.