Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 16 May 1989

Vol. 390 No. 1

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Search and Rescue Services.


asked the Minister for Defence if a final decision has been reached regarding placing a helicopter service on permanent duty for air-sea rescue during emergencies at sea and on the islands off the west coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


asked the Minister for Defence whether the effect of acceding to requests to base the helicopter wing of the Air Corps at Shannon Airport, County Clare will reduce the amount of effective cover or increase the amount of call-out time to the scene of incidents requiring helicopter assistance on the east coast; and, if so, the extent of such.


asked the Minister for Defence the progress which has been made in providing a full helicopter service, operational during darkness; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

(Limerick West): I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 18 and 20 together.

The whole question of search and rescue services is at present the subject matter of a detailed study by the Review Group on Air-Sea Rescue Service under the Chairmanship of the former Garda Commissioner, Mr. Eamonn Doherty. The location of search and rescue helicopters is one of a number of questions which the group will examine and I will consider what action needs to be taken in the light of the recommendations of the group.

Irrespective of where the Air Corps' search and rescue helicopters are based, the amount of cover which they can provide would remain unaltered. The time to reach a particular location would, of course, depend on its distance from base. I am pleased to say that the Air Corps now has sufficient pilots with sufficient experience to undertake night search and rescue operations in the Dauphin helicopter and further pilots are in training. A total of 143 missions, including night missions, have been flown by the Dauphins, as a result of which 102 persons have been rescued.

Arising from the Minister's reply, concerning the review group which was set up at the eleventh hour when everybody thought a decision about relocation was about to be made, is it true that the much published three international stars — the experts who were to come — failed to turn up for the first meeting of the group a few weeks ago?

(Limerick West): That group are under the auspices of the Minister for the Marine and if the Deputy has an appropriate question it should be put to the Minister for the Marine.

Given that the Minister now suggests that the Minister for the Marine is the man who is going to deal with this issue primarily, can he explain to the House why he took the initiative of seeking the support or information of a private helicopter company run by the son of the Taoiseach with a view to privatising the services?

(Limerick West): The statement issued by the Deputy is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

With respect, I would like to clarify this matter. The last day the Minister answered questions and there are Deputies here who were present then——

Please, Deputy.

——he advised the House that on his initiative he had sought a tender or submission from Irish Helicopters Ltd. with regard to their capacity to deal with delivering a service of air-sea rescue.

That seems to be a separate matter.

Yes, but the Minister has said——

Please, Deputy.

The Minister has said that I misled the House. I did not in any way mislead this House but the Minister did. I want the matter corrected by him now

He is misleading the House.

I would like him to withdraw the remark suggesting that I misled this House.

That is raising a separate matter.

I am entitled to the protection of the Chair on this occasion.

You are indeed and you have always had it, Deputy.

(Limerick West): Neither the Taoiseach nor myself sought any such quotations from any commercial firms. I repeat, the statement by the Deputy is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

May I ask the Minister a very straight question? Does he accept that it is necessary to relocate the Dauphin range of helicopters on the west coast?

(Limerick West): The question of locating Dauphin helicopters, or any other type of helicopters, either on the west coast or elsewhere in this country is now being examined by the review group. I want to say to the Deputy that the relocation of helicopters, whether on the west coast or elsewhere is not going to be done on a haphazard basis. It will be done on a properly structured basis.

Over ten years I suppose.

(Limerick West): The final decision will be made when we have the result of this review committee. The Deputy's Government did very little about it when they were in office.


Question No. 11 please.

On a point of order, I have not intervened to ask a supplementary question so far and neither has my colleague, Deputy McGinley. This is a particularly important issue. Lives are at stake depending on how the Government deal with the issue. I would ask your indulgence to allow us one or two very brief supplementaries.

If the Chair dwells unduly long on any one question it is clearly to the disadvantage of all other questions. The Chair merely wishes to make reasonable progress in such matters.

I would ask for your indulgence.

If the Deputy has a brief question to put will he please put it?

Thank you. May I ask the Minister to indicate whether it is now himself or the Minister for the Marine who has responsibility for the Air Corps? Can he indicate when he expects to receive recommendations from this committee he has established? Can he indicate whether those recommendations will be made to him or to the Minister for the Marine and would the Minister confirm that he accepts that while he prevaricates in making a decision on this issue lives are going to be lost off the west coast of this country?

(Limerick West): I am the Minister responsible for the operation of the Air Corps. The Minister for the Marine set up this special committee. That committee will report to him and he in turn will report to the Government. I do not accept the implications in the Deputy's last comments because, as I have already stated, the five Dauphins, have now flown more than 3,800 hours, 70 per cent of which has been devoted to training in search and rescue. I should like to say further that in addition to search and rescue, the aircraft have flown a total of 63 air ambulance and four island relief missions.


When will they be in the west?

Question No. 11 please.

The Minister for the Marine is now running the Air Corps.

(Limerick West): You are not listening, Deputy. All you are good for is a misrepresentation of the facts.