The Government approved a proposal from the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in November 2001 to contract out the piloting and maintenance of a new Garda helicopter, the EC 135, for a trial period and it is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the interdepartmental committee that was set up to oversee this process. This committee met on three occasions in total, twice in January 2002 and once in June 2002.
In March 2002, having considered the various issues the interdepartmental committee submitted an interim report to the then Minister in which it recommended — for legal reasons — that the EC135 be introduced into service, on an interim basis, on the State military register while the longer term options were explored.
The matter was again submitted to Government who approved, in April 2002, the placement, on an interim basis, of the EC135 on the State military register with the Air Corps responsible for the piloting of the craft and directed the interdepartmental committee to continue to examine the options for the contracting out of piloting and maintenance of the new helicopter on a trial basis.
In June 2002, the interdepartmental committee met to discuss further actions required. The Department of Defence began work on the RFT for the out-sourcing of the maintenance for the EC 135. In December 2002, a tender for the long-term maintenance of the EC 135 was issued and following contract negotiations a two year maintenance contract was awarded to McAlpine Helicopters Ltd. This contract came into effect on 1 January 2004.
In addition, work began on a service level agreement between the Air Corps and the Garda Síochána on operating and reporting structures covering all aspects of joint operations. This service level agreement is almost finalised. Following the signing of this agreement, my officials, in consultation with colleagues in the Department of Defence, intend to reconvene the interdepartmental committee to consider further the out-sourcing of the piloting of the EC135 and related issues.