Ceisteann—Questions. Oral Answers. - Corvettes.

88.

asked the Minister for Defence what is the present condition of the corvettes in the Irish Naval Service; and if he has any plans to replace any of them.

89.

asked the Minister for Defence whether he intends replacing the present ships in the Irish Naval Service; if so, with what vessels he will replace them; and whether these vessels will be larger or smaller than the present vessels.

Mr. Gibbons

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 to 89 together. I would refer the Deputies to the reply to Questions Nos. 88, 89, 90 and 91 on the 6th November in which information was given about the condition of the corvettes and plans to replace them. Information has been collected in regard to the types of vessel used for fishery protection in European maritime countries. Consideration is being given to modelling the fishery protection vessel on one of these. Arrangements are in hand to inspect the vessel in question.

Would the Minister state what information he has obtained regarding the most suitable type of vessel used in north European maritime nations for fishery protection?

My Department is in the process of making exhaustive inquiries about vessels of different kinds and when this information is collected and assessed a decision will be made.

May I inquire from the Minister if his Department is likely to refrain from purchasing a frigate of the Leopard class, which would be quite unsuitable for Irish coastal waters in many areas, in view of the tendency in that direction?

The Deputy can rest assured that no unsuitable vessel will be purchased for the Naval Service.

I think the question being asked is, is he going to buy the Nkrumah ship.

Could we have an assurance from the Minister?

The House has an assurance that no unsuitable vessel will be purchased.

Could the Minister tell us when the existing vessels will be replaced?

I am aware of the urgency of the problem and this will be a factor in the time taken to make a final decision.

Would the Minister admit that, despite the inquiries made by his Department, the figures are, in fact, quite unrealistic in the context of Irish coastal protection?

I do not admit that inquiries as to the suitability of any ship would be either irrelevant or unnecessary.

Unrealistic.

No. It is necessary to gather the maximum amount of information about vessels of various kinds and then to determine the ones which best suit our purpose.

Will the naval vessels be in action for the coming fishing season to protect our fishery waters?

There are a number of questions coming up on fishery protection and, when we come to them, we may be able to elucidate. The purpose of fishery protection vessels is to protect our fisheries.

90.

asked the Minister for Defence the present strength of the Irish Navy in terms of manpower and seaworthy vessels.

The number of personnel serving in the Naval Service as on the 6th November, 1969 was 387 comprising 34 officers, 170 non-commissioned officers, 180 seamen and three cadets. The Naval Service has three corvettes, only one of which is at present operational.

91.

asked the Minister for Defence if Irish naval vessels now skirt the coast of Northern Ireland; and if so, why.

Vessels of the Naval Service have always sailed along all parts of the Irish coast. There has been no change.

92.

asked the Minister for Defence whether further poaching took place off Dunmore East last week; if so, to what extent; and by whom.

A report was received by the Naval Service on the 25th October, 1969, that a fleet of 30 Dutch fishing vessels were trawling inside the fishery limit at Mine Head, County Waterford. A check was made with a reliable source which confirmed that there were 23 fishing vessels of a large type operating six to seven miles off shore. About the same time the gardaí at Ardmore reported at least 17 trawlers off Mine Head.

On the 27th October, 1969, a report was received that a number of Dutch trawlers were fishing inside the fishery limit off Helvick Head. As there was not a corvette of the Naval Service in the areas in question on the dates mentioned it is not possible to say whether in fact any illegal fishing took place. The corvette L. E. "Maev" which had been on patrol off the Donegal coast reached the Dunmore area on 29th October, 1969. No illegal fishing was then observed.

A report was received on the 8th November, 1969, that 30 Dutch trawlers were fishing illegally during the previous night in the area between Mine Head and Helvick Head. An inquiry made from the gardaí at Dungarvan elicited the information that seven or eight trawlers were observed in the area earlier in the evening and appeared to be anchored at a place where it would be normal for them to anchor. The corvette L. E. "Maev" patrolled the same area on the 10th November, 1969, and arrested two Dutch trawlers whose skippers were subsequently convicted of illegal fishing and fined £100 each with confiscation of fish and fishing gear. An appeal against the conviction has been made in the case of one of the trawlers.

93.

asked the Minister for Defence (a) the number of officers and men who travel on the corvette during normal duty.

The crew of a corvette normally consists of five officers and 60 men.

Would the Minister agree this is vastly in excess of the accommodation available?

I would not agree

Is it not a fact that corvettes built during the war were built without sufficient accommodation for the crew and some of the crew have to sleep on deck when the ship is at sea?

That is not so. The accommodation is adequate.

94.

asked the Minister for Defence the date of his last visit to the headquarters of the Irish Naval Services at Haulbowline, Cork.

Since my appointment as Minister for Defence in July last I have not visited the naval base at Haulbowline.

Does the Minister intend to visit it?

asked the Minister for Defence if he is in a position to say how many corvettes there are in naval service in (a) Europe and (b) the world; and how many corvettes are engaged in fishery protection by maritime European nations.

The description "corvette" is applied to vessels of different sizes and capabilities; the vessels in the Irish Naval Service are Flower class corvettes. Published information available in my Department indicates that there are no other Flower class corvettes in active naval service in Europe. Outside Europe, there is a total of eleven Flower class corvettes in service, none of which is listed as engaged in fishery protection.

Would the Minister agree that we are the only nation using corvettes for fishery protection? Would he also agree that there are no immediate plans to replace these and no immediate research is being done on the best type of vessels with which to replace these corvettes?

I do not accept that. I have already given certain information in that regard in reply to a previous question.

96.

asked the Minister for Defence the number of men in the Irish Naval Service and the breakdown as between officers, men and civil servants.

The number of personnel serving in the Naval Service as on the 6th November, 1969, was 387 comprising 34 officers, 170 non-commissioned officers, 180 seamen, and three cadets. There are no civil servants in the Naval Service. It would not be practicable to segregate the number of civil servants in my Department dealing with the affairs of the service.

97.

asked the Minister for Defence whether he is aware that there is a greater crew on the corvette in service at the moment than the accommodation available; and that the men often have to eat food and sleep in greasy and oily circumstances after seven days at sea; and what action he is taking to remedy this matter.

The position is not as represented by the Deputy.

98.

asked the Minister for Defence what accommodation is available for the families of the crew members of the Irish Naval ships on shore.

Married quarters allocated to Naval Service personnel are as follows:—

Haulbowline, County Cork.

6 Officers' Quarters.

16 Other Ranks' Quarters.