Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (641)

Willie O'Dea


641. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to replace aircraft and-or helicopters in the Garda air support unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36117/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion.  Very significant capital investment is also being made in An Garda Síochána, including investment of €342 million in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 and investment of €46 million in the Garda fleet over the same period.

As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. Further, the allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Commissioner, in light of his identified operational demands.

I understand that the Garda Air Support Unit was established in September 1997 with the delivery of a Pilatus Britten-Norman BN 2T-4S Defender 4000 fixed wing aircraft and a Eurocopter AS355N Eceuriel helicopter. In 2001 the Unit acquired a second helicopter - a Eurocopter EC135 T2. In 2007 the Eceuriel helicopter was replaced by a second EC135 T2+.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the question of prioritising the upgrading or replacement of these aircraft is in the first instance for the Commissioner, in the context of the investment being made in An Garda Síochána and his operational priorities.  

I understand from the Garda authorities that neither the two helicopters nor the Fixed Wing Aircraft have reached the end of their operational lives and as such, no funding has been provided in the 2019 budget for the replacement of these aircrafts. 

In relation to the equipment on the helicopters, I can inform the Deputy that funding has been allocated for upgrade of the Role Equipment on the Eurocopter EC135 T2+. A tendering process for this upgrade has commenced and has been published. I am informed that it is intended that the Role Equipment currently on this aircraft will subsequently be installed into the Eurocopter 135 T2 Helicopter.

Regarding the future replacement of the fixed wing aircraft, I can confirm that a Technical Advisory Group comprising of personnel from my Department, An Garda Síochána, the Department of Defence and the Irish Air Corps was established and met for the first time in 2016 to examine the options in that regard.  My Department continues to engage with Garda management on an ongoing basis in relation to that matter, as well as ongoing engagement more generally on current and capital resource needs.