Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Ceisteanna (36)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

36. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of times the Defence Forces engaged in aid to the civil power duties with regard to US military aircraft present at Shannon Airport during 2017; the number of Defence Forces personnel involved; the cost of these engagements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10383/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Ceist ar Defence)

I remind the Minister of State of a definition of democracy, that we can say what we like but we will do what we are told. When Alan Shatter was Minister for Justice, he claimed that the Garda Síochána had no role in the inspection of foreign state or military aircraft at Shannon or other airports because they enjoy sovereign immunity. In effect, this means the Government allows the US military to take whatever or whoever it wants through Ireland, regardless of the human rights, security and other consequences. I know the Defence Forces are not responsible for inspecting the planes but they are playing a role in facilitating the US use of Shannon Airport as a military base to go on to destroy lives and places in other regions without us giving a damn.

I will take the Deputy up on one point. He talked about members of parties being told to do what they are told. I think he should actually join a party. He would see that everyone can participate fully in whatever way they want to.

When was the last time the Minister of State voted against Fine Gael?

Fine Gael is always right so I do not have to vote against it.

The Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána have primary responsibility for the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of aid to the civil power, ATCP, which in practice means to assist An Garda Síochána when requested to do so. On each occasion that the support of the Defence Forces is required, An Garda Síochána issues a form C70 to the Defence Forces to request their assistance.

Since 5 February 2003, the Garda has requested support from the Defence Forces at Shannon Airport on occasion. The cost of the presence of Defence Forces at Shannon Airport performing aid to civil power duties with regard to United States of America military aircraft landing at Shannon Airport in 2017 is €180,579.81 for 293 deployments. For security reasons, it would not be appropriate to disclose the details regarding the number of personnel assigned to each deployment. The costs relate to security duty allowance paid to members of the Defence Forces, rations and fuel. The cost of ATCP operations are met entirely from the Defence Vote.

I am satisfied that there is ongoing and close liaison between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, and between my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality regarding security matters generally, including the Defence Forces' ATCP roles.

The planes are not being inspected; we do not care what the Americans do in Shannon. Yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The role this country has played in facilitating the destruction not just of Iraq but several other countries in the region is an absolute shame. We are still doing so. We should learn some lessons from Iraq and should remember it. Not only do we still owe an enormous debt to the people of Iraq, the war's goals also remain in place, namely, expanding US military domination, controlling oil and pipelines, facilitating US business, promoting the arms industry, and building an empire of military bases. The wars raging across the Middle East today find their origins in the Iraq war. We need to remember that it was Bush's occupation of Iraq that gave rise to ISIS. That terrorist organisation germinated in the cells of prisons in which Iraqis were being held. Is Ireland ever going to learn that America is not going to the Middle East to promote democracy? It has supported dictators there for many years. It is creating untold hardship, destruction and misery.

The Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána have primary responsibility for the internal security of the State. The Defence Forces are deployed on the basis of aid to the civil power, in practice on the request of An Garda Síochána. Accordingly, any security assessments that the Deputy has mentioned or decisions to seek support from the Defence Forces are matters totally for An Garda Síochána. Members of the Defence Forces assist An Garda Síochána under the provisions of aid to the civil power. I have repeated this in the Chamber on numerous occasions, although the Deputy might not agree with me. In the first instance, the security of the State is the total responsibility of An Garda Síochána. The Defence Forces assist. During the weather crisis, there was an incident in Tallaght when the Defence Forces responded to a request by An Garda Síochána under aid to the civil power.

The former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, said that the Garda had no role in inspecting military aircraft because they have sovereign immunity. The writer, Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi living in New York, said this week that the invasion of Iraq is often spoken of in the United States as a blunder or even a colossal mistake but that it was a crime and those who perpetrated it are still at large.

Fianna Fáil and the former Progress Democrats, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, Fine Gael and the Labour Party and, now, Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance have facilitated the US using Shannon as a military base to create unbelievable destruction and hardship. More than 1 million civilians who were not involved in any armed struggle have been killed by the Americans and Ireland was party to it. It is a bit like carrying the murderer to the scene where the killing takes place. In allowing Shannon to be used for military purposes we are facilitating a crime. We need a rethink on this issue.

I respect the Deputy's personal feelings on this issue. However, the issues raised by him are not matters for the Irish Defences Forces or the Department of Defence. Rather, they are matters for the Department of Justice and Equality and, in the first instance, An Garda Síochána. I ask that the Deputy table a similar question to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan.

In terms of the issues raised, the Defence Forces respond to An Garda Síochána as an aid to the civil power, which assistance we provided during recent weeks of major weather crises. The Defence Forces have no role in the security of the State. That is a matter for An Garda Síochána.