I propose to take Questions Nos. 248 to 252, inclusive, together.
The most important defence against terrorist attacks is detection and prevention by the security forces. While the Garda has the primary responsibility for law and order, one of the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power, meaning in practice to assist the Garda, when requested. The various components of the Defence Forces are active in this regard, providing such assistance as is appropriate in specific circumstances.
The terrorist threat to Ireland is continually assessed. The advice available suggests that while the terrorist threat to parts of Europe is high, it is low in regard to Ireland. However it is prudent that we should take precautions and keep matters under continuous review. Arrangements exist between the security forces of European member states and other states to ensure effective liaison in regard to security threats arising.
The Defence Forces make contingency plans for a range of scenarios where the State may be at risk. An urgent and detailed review to deal with a range of emergency situations was undertaken by the military authorities following the events of 11 September. It included, inter alia, an update 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 aspects in terms of explosive ordnance disposal and specialist search; and a review of equipment, including the need for air defence. All matters arising were addressed and all procedures updated as required. However, as the Deputy will appreciate, it is not possible to expand on the operational details of such plans. The capacity of the Defence Forces to deal with major emergencies is kept under constant review. Plans and procedures are updated as necessary and such additional equipment as is required to address any perceived deficiencies is acquired on the basis of identified priorities. Training and preparation for such events is also provided for in the Defence Forces annual training plan.
The Defence Forces have available to them equipment for monitoring and protecting its members in dealing with nuclear, biological or chemical, NBC, threats identified from time to time. The requirement for additional NBC equipment is kept under continuous review by the director of operations and the director of ordnance. A programme for the purchase of NBC equipment is ongoing and whatever equipment deemed necessary is purchased expeditiously to meet the changing requirements.
The Defence Forces hold an extensive range of modern NBC equipment that meets their current requirements. In particular, a total of 8,000 new NBC suits has been acquired. In addition, the Defence Forces has sufficient stock of respirators for each individual soldier. They also have 98 of the most technologically up-to-date chemical agent monitors and Defence Forces personnel are being trained on their operation. Other equipment on hands includes biological agent detector, screening kits and group and personal decontamination equipment. The most important defence against an attack is external vigilance, detection and prevention by the security forces. All the necessary resources of the Garda and the Defence Forces are deployed to this end.