My priority as Minister of State with responsibility for defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service to carry out their roles as assigned by Government. The resources available to the Defence Forces to carry out their operational commitments are kept under constant review and future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process. The allocation of more than €1 billion for the defence sector for 2020, an increase of €32.3 million on 2019, emphasises the importance attached by the Government to ensuring that the Defence Forces have the resources necessary to deliver on all roles assigned, both at home and overseas.
At national level, representation on the Government task force on emergency planning by both the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces ensures the fullest co-ordination and co-operation in the event of an emergency. In accordance with the framework for major emergency management, primary responsibility for responding to emergencies such as a natural disaster rests with three designated principal response agencies, namely, An Garda Síochána, the relevant local authority and the Health Service Executive. The Defence Forces provide the fullest possible assistance to the appropriate lead Department in the event of a natural disaster or an emergency in its aid to the civil authority role. Major emergency plans have been developed by local and regional authorities and these plans identify the procedures for requesting assistance from the Defence Forces.
With reference to rescue services, the Irish Coast Guard has overall responsibility for the provision of search and rescue services within the Irish search and rescue region. Both the Air Corps and the Naval Service provide support to the Coast Guard on an "as available" basis in accordance with an agreed service level agreement.
With regard to security and surveillance matters, primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State, rests with An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality. One of the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is providing aid to the civil power, which, in practice, means assisting An Garda Síochána when requested to do so.