Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Transport of Irish UN Peacekeeping Troops.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

15 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence whether he has made any approach to the United Nations in view of the fact that Irish troops going to and from the Lebanon are no longer carried by Aer Lingus; whether he has satisfied himself with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Aer Lingus have been awarded the contract for the October 1992 rotation of Irish troops serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

Tenders for the transport of troops to and from Lebanon are invited by the United Nations and are open to international competitive bidding. While I favour the use of our national airline and the United Nations is aware of this, the decision on the allocation of a contract to transport a troop contingent is a matter for the United Nations.

Would the Minister give the House an outline of the airlines which have been awarded this contract in recent times? Second, would he not accept that, when dealing with the United Nations who owe us a load of money — the Minister mentioned £11 million — surely we should be able to use some muscle to ensure that our national airline, itself on its knees, is given some preference in the awarding of contracts?

I want to assure the Deputy that no arm needs twisting but will be twisted, no nose that needs tweaking but will be tweaked but, with regard to contracts, the United Nations gives the contract to the lowest tender.

Can the Minister give us the record in recent times?

I have not any records at all; I was not asked that question.

Would the Minister not accept that Aer Lingus have not been awarded this contract at all in recent years? From that point of view surely the Minister should, as he said, be twisting arms and tweaking noses, indeed using the muscle we have because we are a creditor nation supplying these troops, to ensure that our national airline does get preference every time in the tender for transporting our troops to and from Lebanon.

I am very glad that Aer Lingus did tender and did get the contract this time.

On this one occasion.