Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (43, 57, 58, 59, 60, 85)

Seán Crowe

Question:

43. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason for the decision to send the LÉ Eithne and LÉ Orla to port; and the impact personnel shortages within the Naval Service had on the decision. [31737/19]

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Jack Chambers

Question:

57. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a senior official in his Department was briefed on the contents of the letter of the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service before it was published; if so, the reason he then subsequently contradicted its contents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32117/19]

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Jack Chambers

Question:

58. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will clarify the details of a letter he stated he received from the general staff of the Defence Forces regarding the scheduled maintenance of Naval Service ships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32118/19]

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Jack Chambers

Question:

59. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason he has stated that there are no manpower issues with the docked Naval Service ships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32119/19]

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Jack Chambers

Question:

60. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his comments regarding apparent inaccurate reports regarding Naval Service ships (details supplied) will be clarified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32120/19]

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Jack Chambers

Question:

85. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number and name of each Naval Service vessel available for use; the name and number of vessels under maintenance; the name and number of vessels unavailable due to staffing levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33817/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 57 to 60, inclusive, and 85 together.

I can confirm that neither I nor any senior official was briefed in advance of circulation of the internal Defence Forces newsletter dated 27 June which issued to Naval Service personnel. Subsequently it was confirmed to my officials that both LÉ Eithne and LÉ Orla were in port for scheduled maintenance, including a period of dry dock.

The personnel challenges in the Naval Service are well known. There is no question of minimising them and my main focus is returning the Naval Service to its full capacity. There are recruitment and retention challenges in the Naval Service and difficult decisions have to be made to regenerate the Naval Service.

In general terms, the fleet is always managed to ensure maximum availability to meet operational requirements. In that context, there is a sub set of vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time. Extensive maintenance and dry-docking works are also carried out on an ongoing basis to ensure the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible so that they can carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

A joint civil and military team met recently to review the issues facing the Naval Service and to prepare options for my consideration. At that meeting consideration was given to proposals to put two ships on self-maintenance into operational reserve. Further analysis is being carried out on the basis of these discussions with a view to maximising the operational outputs of the Naval Service. I expect to receive recommendations from the civil military team shortly.

I can also confirm that a Mid-Life Extension Programme commenced for P51 LE Róisín last March. A Mid-Life Extension Programme for P52 LÉ Niamh will commence in 2020.

I can assure the Deputy that the Naval Service will continue to carry out its various roles using available resources.