Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 9 Dec 1998

Vol. 498 No. 2

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Operations.

Derek McDowell


118 Mr. McDowell asked the Minister for Defence the number of joint missions involving the Army, Garda and Navy regarding the prevention of drug smuggling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26822/98]


120 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Defence if there is sufficient personnel and equipment to deal effectively with illegal drug importation via our seas. [9036/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 120 together.

Responsibility for the prevention of the illegal importation of drugs rests primarily with the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners while the main day to day role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union. During the course of routine patrols Naval Service vessels may be deployed to anti drug smuggling operations. Naval Service vessels are specifically tasked from time to time to carry out drug search and interdiction operations in aid of the civil authorities.
Existing resources have enabled the Naval Service to respond effectively to taskings involving the prevention of illegal drug importation. Government measures to improve law enforcement in relation to drugs, including the establishment in 1993 of a joint task force involving the Garda, the Customs Service and the Naval Service, have helped to maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating the illegal importation of drugs.
Since the formation of the aforementioned joint task force the Naval Service has been involved in 19 drug interdiction missions. These missions involved the Naval Service operating either in conjunction with the Garda or the Customs Service, or both. Apart from the direct involvement of the Naval Service in drug interdiction missions at sea, Naval Service officers have been called on from time to time to assist the Garda and the Customs Service using their particular expertise in naval service marine engineering, and diving capabilities. Army personnel have also provided assistance in drug interdiction missions on occasions.
The designation of Naval Service personnel as enforcement officers under the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, has increased the role and effectiveness of the Naval Service in the area of drug interdiction. The strength of the Naval Service is kept under constant review in the light of operational requirements. Eighty four recruits have been enlisted in the service to date in 1998 and arrangements are in hand for the enlistment of an additional 36 recruits. Seventeen apprentices are also being, recruited. Twelve cadets are at present undergoing training with the Naval Service and, in addition, nine watchkeeping officers have taken up appointment with the executive branch of the service.
The Naval Service is equipped with a total of seven vessels comprising one helicopter carrying vessel, four off shore patrol vessels and two coastal patrol vessels. At present six vessels are operational and one is undergoing refit. In December 1997 a contract was placed for the supply of a new fishery protection patrol vessel which is due to be delivered in September, 1999.