Thursday, 4 November 2004

Questions (198, 199)

Billy Timmins

Question:

195 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Defence his plans to replace the Learjet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27642/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Defence)

The Learjet, which was acquired late last year for the ministerial air transport service, provides an excellent service for short and medium-haul flights and has proven extremely reliable since it entered service in January this year. The Learjet replaced the Beechcraft KingAir, which is now being used as a training aircraft and for some MATS flights when necessary. During the course of the EU Presidency, the Learjet performed 78 missions, mainly to various European locations and had 100% dispatch reliability over the period. The aircraft proved to be an essential asset in meeting the needs of Ministers who attended numerous meetings throughout Europe during our EU Presidency and it will continue to be required in the future. There are no plans to replace the aircraft.

Billy Timmins

Question:

196 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Defence the number of nuclear, biological or chemical protective clothing suits available in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27669/04]

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The Defence Forces have available to them equipment for monitoring and protecting their members in dealing with nuclear, biological or chemical threats identified from time to time. They hold an extensive range of modern nuclear, biological or chemical equipment that meets their current requirements. This range includes approximately 7,000 nuclear, biological or chemical suits which are available to the Defence Forces. In addition, the Defence Forces have a sufficient stock of respirators for each individual soldier. They also have some 100 of the most technologically up-to-date chemical agent monitors and Defence Forces personnel have been trained in their operation. Other equipment on hand includes biological agent detector and screening kits, group decontamination equipment and personal decontamination equipment.

The requirement for additional nuclear, biological or chemical equipment is kept under continuous review by the Defence Forces. A programme for the purchase of nuclear, biological or chemical equipment is ongoing and whatever equipment deemed necessary is purchased expeditiously to meet the changing requirements. The Garda Síochána has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power — meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána — which duties include the protection and guarding of vital installations, the provision of certain security escorts etc.

The most important defence against any attack is external vigilance, detection and prevention by the security forces. All the necessary resources of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces are deployed to this end.