Written Answers. - Emergency Planning.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

138 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if adequate military resources are available at short notice to deter a terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19129/03]

The Garda Siochána has primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. While the threat of terrorist attacks in this jurisdiction is the subject of continual analysis and assessment by both the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, the advice available to me is that the threat to Ireland remains unchanged and continues to be rated "low" by the security authorities. Notwithstanding that, it is important that all prudent precautions are taken and that matters are kept under continual review.

The Defence Forces make contingency plans for a range of scenarios where the security of the State may be at risk. In addition, the Defence Forces have contingency plans in place in relation to the provision of aid to the civil power and the provision of assistance to the civil authorities for a range of emergencies.

In the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001, the Government established a task force on emergency planning. The objective of the task force is to ensure that all State bodies can react quickly and efficiently to any large-scale emergency. As chair of this task force, my objective is to ensure that such responses continue to be characterised by effective management of all aspects of emergency planning and by a high level of public confidence in all the response arrangements.

The Office of Emergency Planning, OEP, which operates under my remit in the Department of Defence, is taking the lead role in emergency planning to meet the new threats from global terrorism, including co-ordination of Government emergency planning and response by various agencies. Review and updating of existing emergency plans is ongoing in order to ensure a co-ordinated and an effective response to large scale emergencies.

An urgent and detailed review of capacities and procedures to deal with a range of emergency situations was undertaken by the military authorities following on from the events of 11 September. It included,inter alia, an up date of the threat assessment; intensive contacts with other State agencies; a reassessment of operations orders relating to vital installations, alert systems, the Army Ranger wing, ordnance and engineer assets in terms of explosive ordnance disposal and specialist search and a review of equipment including the need for air defence. Guidance documents pertaining to aid to the civil power and aid to the civil authorities were also re-assessed. All matters arising were addressed and all procedures updated as required.
Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 90.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

140 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which gas masks or special breathing apparatus have been issued to the military authorities with particular reference to the ability of the Permanent Defence Force to respond to a chemical or gas attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19131/03]

There are approximately 15,000 respirators – gas masks – in the Defence Forces at present. They are part of the normal issue to personnel on operational duties. Stocks of breathing apparatus are available as required for specialist applications such as fire fighting, diving activities and bomb disposal.

Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 90.