Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Defence Forces Equipment

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 7 July 2010

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Ceisteanna (21)

Leo Varadkar


30 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Defence if he has received the Marine Casualty Investigation Board’s report on the loss of the Asgard II; when it will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30033/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (8 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Minister for Defence)

I can confirm that I received a copy of the draft report into the sinking of the sail training vessel, Asgard II. This report was examined by my Department and any comments and observations were submitted by the due date of 27 April 2010. The question of publishing the report is a matter for the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, which is a statutory independent body.

I understand the Asgard II was insured. Was the insurance collected, how much was it and what has happened to it? Did it go to the Department of Defence or has it gone to the general Exchequer?

It predates my time so I will answer from memory. My recollection is that it was fully insured and that the full insurance was paid, approximately €3.8 million. My understanding is this money came to the Department of Defence, but was de facto transferred to the Exchequer.

There was a proposal that there should be a replacement vessel for Asgard II. This arose as a serious issue in my constituency recently. For clarification, am I correct to understand that the Minister is not actively considering such a proposal at this stage? Is this something the Minister will consider in the context of a sail training programme? The big interest from Waterford is due to the fact that the Tall Ships event will be here next year but we will not have a large sailing vessel participating. Also, the training programme was a very good programme for young people and it is a pity it has been lost. A proposal was also made that we should lease a vessel. What proposals has the Department in this regard?

As the Deputies will be aware, Coiste an Asgard is still in existence. I had a meeting with the coiste a month or two ago at which we explored some of the questions put by Deputy O’Shea. At this point in time, I do not intend to revisit decisions that have been made on the future of the programme. This is as much, if not more, for financial reasons than for any other consideration. A sail training programme would not have to be dependent on the acquisition of a ship of the standard of the Asgard. I understand the coiste has been engaged in some discussions with sail training groups with a view to accommodating the people referred to by Deputy O’Shea in a sail training programme. Unfortunately, that does not address the Deputy’s difficulty with regard to the event at Waterford. It is highly unlikely that Coiste an Asgard will be in position to have a vessel. On the other hand, the Jeanie Johnston is very pretty and I am sure there are people the Deputy could talk to in that regard.

I am sure the Minister meant to mention the Dunbrody also.

What is the Minister's view on recent reports of diving expeditions to the wreck of the Asgard II? Are there items that could be salvaged from the wreck that may be of value, sentimental or otherwise?

I understand there has been some diving activity. As far as I can establish, permission was not received from the Irish authorities and may well have been refused, and likewise from the French authorities. My understanding is that when the Asgard II sank, before divers could be deployed on behalf of the coiste and the Department, permission had first to be sought from the French authorities, which was forthcoming at that stage. There have been reports that a formal complaint was made about current diving activities by the coiste. My understanding is that the French authorities drew the attention of the Irish authorities to the fact that unauthorised diving was under way at the site. I am informed that there are some serious health and safety concerns and issues in regard to ownership which I am not in a position to go into in any great detail. I understand permission was not received from either the Irish or the French authorities.