Thursday, 13 June 2019

Ceisteanna (9)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

9. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps have access to training and equipment on par with other Defence Forces throughout Europe and with a high degree of capability in dealing with unforeseen emergencies, such as a terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24560/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Defence)

This is at variance with Deputy Wallace's submission. An opinion I hold strongly is that the Defence Forces need to be properly equipped with modern telecommunications, armouries and all aspects of the equipment used on a daily or monthly basis at home and abroad. Given that it is important to keep the Defence Forces up to date I ask the Minister of State the extent to which he proposes to so do.

Primary responsibility for the internal security of the State rests with the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of aid to the civil power which in practice means to provide assistance and support to An Garda Síochána when requested to do so. The Defence Forces retain a wide range of specialist skills which can be deployed in such circumstances, including for terrorist incidents.

There is ongoing and close liaison between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces regarding security matters, including aid to the civil power deployments, and a wide variety of military training activities are specifically designed to counter or respond to possible security emergencies. Regular co-ordination and liaison meetings also take place between the Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána on aid to the civil power issues.

The full spectrum of Defence Forces personnel and equipment are available for deployment in response to any security and other emergencies that may arise. Within the Defence Forces, both the Ordnance Corps and the Army Ranger Wing specialise in providing an immediate response to emergency incidents that might require their highly specialised capabilities.

The Ordnance Corps consists of a number of explosive ordnance disposal teams which are on stand-by 24-7 to respond when a request for assistance is received from An Garda Síochána to deal with suspect devices.

The Army Ranger Wing is an integral unit of the Defence Forces whose roles include provision of specialist aid to the civil power support to An Garda Síochána. The need for a high level of preparedness to deal with any requests for special forces operations is inherent in the unit's mission. Members are trained to the highest levels of motivation, physical fitness and skill at arms for their specialist role. The Army Ranger Wing is on stand-by 24-7 to be called upon to undertake duties in any part of the country.

I can confirm that the Defence Forces keep their operational plans and response capabilities for dealing with a wide range of threats under constant review. It is my priority as Minister of State with responsibility for defence to ensure the operational capacity of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible and I work closely with the Chief of Staff to this end.

Is the Minister satisfied the standard of training and level of equipment available to the Defence Forces when serving overseas is comparable to the best available for a variety of reasons, including self-preservation and having the ability to support each other in emergency situations that arise? Similarly, with regard to emergencies that may arise at home, whether the potential of a terrorist attack, search and rescue, surveillance or whatever the case may be, is the Minister satisfied that we have available to our Defence Forces the best equipment and training available to others throughout Europe?

I thank the Deputy. I have been advised by military management that all training, retraining and exercising is carried out. This is a matter for the military. With regard to equipment, I assure the Deputy that over recent years, there has been a huge increase in the budget for investment in equipment in the Air Corps, the Naval Service and the Army. Whether for new ships, planes, the refit of armoured personnel carriers or investment in barracks, there has been huge investment in this area. It is only right and proper that we train and equip our personnel to the highest standards possible and that we are able to match other countries when we are on peacekeeping duties overseas, whether in UNIFIL, UNDOF or whatever, and that we have specialist training and equipment and the capability and capacity to operate in whatever situation arises. It is important that we continue to invest in training and equipment.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: I thank the Deputy. I have been advised by military management that all training retraining and exercising is carried out. This is a matter for the military. With regard to equipment, I assure the Deputy that over recent years there has been a huge increase in the budget rrevofor investment in equipment within the Air Corps, the Naval service and the army whether for new ships, planes, the refit of armoured personnel carriers or investment in barracks, there has been huge investment in this area. It is only right and proper that we do so because we train and equip our personnel to the highest standards possible and we are able to match other countries when we are on peacekeeping duties overseas, whether you live, under or whatever and have specialist training and equipment and that we are able to operate and have the capability and capacity to operate in whatever situation arises. It is important that we continue to invest in training and equipment.

Does the Minister of State remain satisfied that adequate provision has been made to ensure the ability to respond to national emergencies whether they be natural or inflicted disasters and the degree to which the military authorities can respond in their role of assisting An Garda Síochána in such emergencies and to do so precisely and promptly?

As an example of that, I recently approved a request for the Defence Forces to host another counter-marauding terrorist attack course, which will take place later this year. Previous iterations were hosted by Ireland and the positive feedback has been instrumental in developing further courses and seminars. The numerous terrorist attacks around the globe in recent years have highlighted the need for increased synergies between civil and military agencies in respect of counterterrorism strategies and this proposal addresses this need. The Defence Forces have an excellent reputation internationally in counter improvised explosive devices, CIED, capability and regularly contribute to host CIED training courses and workshops here. The course will bring together civil and military groups to examine, analyse and assess lessons identified for terrorist attacks, including motivation, financing, and social and economic implications. The objective of the course is to develop a graded system of attacks and to apply that to the development of comprehensive plans.

It is only right and proper that the Defence Forces continue to have joint training exercises with An Garda Síochána because we never know when an incident might happen, and both forces have to be ready whenever that happens. I am content and happy with the training and equipment that the Defence Forces have and I have been advised by military management that they are content.