Thursday, 8 October 2020

Ceisteanna (15)

Paul Murphy


15. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Defence his plans to take the Irish Coast Guard air rescue service back into full public ownership. [28815/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Defence Organisation provides a broad range of services in accordance with its primary security role while it also undertakes a diverse range of non security related tasks. The Defence Forces continue to carry out the roles assigned by Government, including security operations, critical supports to An Garda Síochána and Aid To Civil Authority (ATCA) supports to other Government Departments and Agencies.

Since 2004 the Irish Coast Guard has had overall responsibility for the provision of Search and Rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue domain. The Irish Coast Guard fall under the remit of the Minister for Transport. From within the Defence Organisation, both the Naval Service and the Air Corps provide support to the Irish Coast Guard in maritime Search and Rescue operations on an “as available” basis. A Service Level Agreement is in place setting out their roles and responsibilities in this regard.

The current contract for the Search and Rescue Helicopter service is between the Minister of Transport and a civil helicopter operation, CHC Ireland DAC. The contract commenced on 1st July 2012 for a period of 10 years, with an option to extend for a further 3 years. A Steering Committee has been set up under the auspices of the Department of Transport and led by the Irish Coast Guard to manage the procurement of the next SAR aviation service. Personnel from my Department and members of the Air Corps are members of the Steering Committee progressing this contract

I would like to confirm that the Defence Organisation is supportive of the Department of Transport’s programme to put in place the Next Generation Search and Rescue Contract. A strategic assessment and preliminary appraisal document in line with the Public Service Code was agreed by the Steering Group and brought to Government for information in July. A prior information notice was published on etenders to alert the market of the upcoming competition and engagement with the market is currently taking place. Subject to Government approval, it is intended that a Request for Tender will be published by the end of 2020 and the new contract awarded by end 2021/early 2022.

In light of the foregoing, I can confirm that there are no plans to subsume the air rescue services provided by the Irish Coast Guard into the roles and responsibilities of the Defence Organisation.