In accordance with the Framework for Major Emergency Management, primary responsibility for responding to emergencies caused by severe weather events, such as storms and flooding, rests with the three designated principal response agencies, namely, the relevant Local Authority, An Garda Síochána, and the Health Service Executive. The Defence Forces provide the fullest possible assistance to the appropriate Lead Department in the event of a natural disaster or emergency situation in its Aid to the Civil Authority role.
At National level, representation on the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning, by both the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, ensures the fullest coordination and cooperation in the event of an emergency and that the command structure within the Defence Forces is compatible with the requirements in this area.
Major Emergency Plans have been developed by local and regional authorities and these Plans identify the procedures for requesting assistance from the Defence Forces.
The Defence Forces retains a wide range of specialist skills which can be deployed in such circumstances, including for a natural disaster or terrorist incidents.
With regard to security threats, primary responsibility for the internal security of the State rests with the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) which, in practice, means to provide assistance and support to An Garda Síochána when requested to do so.
There is ongoing and close liaison between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces regarding security matters, including ATCP deployments and a wide variety of military training activities are specifically designed to counter or respond to possible security emergencies. Regular coordination and liaison meetings also take place between the Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána in relation to ATCP issues.
The full spectrum of Defence Forces personnel and equipment are available for deployment in response to any security and other emergencies that may arise.
In addition to training provided in Ireland, the Defence Forces have ongoing opportunities to avail of training techniques and facilities available to other forces throughout Europe. They attend training courses run by the following organisations:-
- NATO School Oberammergau
- Associated Centres of Excellence (COEs)
- Partner Training and Education Centres (PTECs); and,
- Other foreign militaries which offer courses of interest to the Defence Forces.
I can confirm that the Defence Forces keep their operational plans and response capabilities for dealing with a wide range of threats under constant review. It is my priority as Minister with responsibility for Defence to ensure that the operational capacity of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles both at home and overseas.