Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Fishery Patrol Vessels.

28.

asked the Minister for Defence if the Government have any plans for the purchase of boats capable of intercepting foreign trawlers fishing illegally in Republic of Ireland waters.

29.

asked the Minister for Defence if no fishery patrol vessel is now at sea; and when it is proposed to find replacements for the present patrol vessels.

30.

asked the Minister for Defence if up-to-date naval vessels are to be procured in the near future to protect the fishing grounds off the coast.

31.

asked the Minister for Defence what fishery protection vessels he has at his disposal to protect the fishing fleets against the inroads of foreign vessels.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 29, 30 and 31 together. Only one corvette is in commission at present but this vessel is now undergoing its normal annual overhaul which will take some weeks to complete. Due to maintenance and manning considerations it has not been the practice to have all three corvettes in commission at the same time. During the past year, for example, only one corvette was at sea for most of the year but occasionally a second was in use.

As already announced, the Government have authorised the purchase of two new ships for the Naval Service, one a naval ship with a fishery protection potential and the other primarily a fishery protection vessel. Considerable preparatory work has been done in relation to both of these vessels. In particular an inspection has been made of a vessel on which the new fishery protection vessel might be modelled. On 2nd March, Irish Shipping Ltd., acting on behalf of my Department, issued on inquiry to a large number of shipbuilders as to whether they would be interested in tendering for the construction of a fishery protection vessel an outline specification of which was supplied.

Do I take it that at the moment we have no ship available for fishery protection? The only corvette we have is in dock?

That is the position at the present time. The corvette in service is in for its annual overhaul.

Therefore we have no ship available. Could the Minister indicate when it is likely that the ships which he said it is intended to purchase—and I am glad to hear this after a great many years—will be delivered, or put into commission?

It is not possible to say with any degree of accuracy when the rather exhaustive and detailed negotiations which will have to be gone through before contracts are placed for building will be concluded. I am aware that we require fishery patrol vessels. We require them urgently and we are seeking them urgently.

While I appreciate the fact that possibly he is not responsible for the disastrous situation which exists at the moment, could the Minister indicate to the House if there is any protection whatsoever for the Irish fishing vessels in their own territorial waters?

I have already stated the position in that regard.

Can the Minister give us some information with regard to the type or class of vessel which Irish Shipping are offering for tender?

Fishery protection vessels.

There are several varieties of fishery protection vessels. This argument has been going on in the Department of Defence for the past seven months. They were going to buy a leopard class vessel one minute and now they are buying a different one.

Having regard to the fact that the last vessels which were purchased for this purpose had neither bottoms nor engines, will the Minister now guarantee that these vessels will at least be in first class order and will not require such a substantial outlay?

I am sorry. I did not catch Deputy Flanagan's question because Deputy Desmond was conducting a kind of obbligato to Deputy Flanagan's question and I did not hear him either. I apologise to the House. Would the Deputy ask the question again?

Can the Minister give any guarantee that the vessels which he now proposes to purchase will at least have engines and bottoms which the last vessels purchased had not got?

Deputy Flanagan's question would be helpful. I am grateful to the Deputy.

May I repeat my question? Can the Minister give us any indication of the type of vessel which is now being sought? What is the tonnage?

The type of vessel we are actively pursuing at present is the fishery patrol type vessel. It will be an all-weather fishery patrol vessel. It will require to be of a certain displacement and of a certain speed and the vessel we will eventually get will comply with these specifications. If the Deputy wants to get specific information about tonnages or displacement or anything else like that, I suggest that he should put down a question.

I have had questions down for the past year almost, since last June.

I do not recall any question from Deputy Desmond about fishery patrol vessels.

I have been asking them for the past five years.

Could I ask the Minister where now is theCú Feasa, that greyhound that was available before Christmas?

That is a separate question.

The ship which the Deputy referred to is, I think, the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. It does not come under the aegis of the Department of Defence.

This is a fisheries matter and the Department is the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

TheCú Feasa comes under this Minister, not that Minister.

Why does he not assign it to Fisheries?