I express my condolences and sincere sympathy to the families and friends of those who died as a result of the Rising Sun fishing tragedy. I am aware of the criticism levelled by Comhairle Fo-Thuinn at Naval Service diving capabilities, which is unfounded and unwarranted.
The Irish Coast Guard has overall responsibility for the provision of maritime search-and-rescue services within the Irish search-and-rescue region. The role of the Defence Forces in search and rescue involves the provision of services to civil authorities as and when required.
The Naval Service provided support to the Irish Coast Guard in this search and recovery operation by way of ships and personnel, including 15 divers and a diving officer. A naval ship acted as on-scene commander vessel and enforced the Irish Coast Guard-imposed exclusion zone.
The naval diving section is governed by clear diving rules and regulations which mirror those of other military and commercial professional diving entities. The equipment used by the naval diving section is the most modern available, having been upgraded in 2004. The Naval Service has trained its own divers since 1983 in accordance with international best practice for both military and commercial diving, and in addition Naval Service divers have trained with other navies in various forms of military diving. Furthermore, as Ireland does not have equivalent commercial diving training and accepts the UK qualifications, Naval Service divers are also qualified by the Health and Safety Executive in the UK to dive and supervise all forms of air diving. That training is to ensure that Naval Service diving is up to date with regard to equipment and procedures in use in commercial diving nationwide.
The Naval Service diving section has considerable experience in search and recovery operations and does its utmost to the limit of its resources while remaining cognisant of health and safety requirements. Naval Service professionalism and dedication in such difficult situations are unquestionable, and I am satisfied that the diving capabilities of the Naval Service have not been found wanting.