Priority Questions - Defence Forces Equipment.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 681 No. 4

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 60. Deputy Brian O’Shea Information on Brian O'Shea Zoom on Brian O'Shea  asked the Minister for Defence Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea  the way the saving of 48% will be achieved in Air Corps equipment and expenses in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17792/09]

Deputy Willie O’Dea:Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The reduction in the provision for the Air Corps this year should be seen in the context of the very significant investment in new equipment for the Air Corps in recent years. This comprehensive investment programme included the delivery of eight Pilatus [731]training aircraft at a total cost of €60 million, inclusive of VAT; two light-utility EC135 helicopters acquired from Eurocopter SAS at a cost of €12.8 million, inclusive of VAT; six utility AW139 helicopters acquired from AgustaWestland, Italy, at a cost of €75 million, inclusive of VAT; and a major mid-life upgrade on the two CASA maritime patrol aircraft, at a cost of €16.5 million. The total cost of these programmes is considerably in excess of €160 million, which I am sure the Deputy will agree is a very substantial amount of money, far exceeding any previous level of expenditure on such equipment for the Air Corps.

There is no provision in this year’s Air Corps subhead for the purchase of aircraft. The AW139 helicopter programme and the CASA upgrade were both finalised in 2008 and this accounts for the significant reduction in the 2009 provision vis-à-vis 2008. The allocation for 2009 is sufficient for the day-to-day operations in the Air Corps and will not affect its operational capability.

  3 o’clock

Deputy Brian O’Shea:Information on Brian O'Shea Zoom on Brian O'Shea My recollection is that the October budget called for a reduction of 44% and it has now moved to 48%. Where is the additional reduction of 4% implemented? Between the fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, there are no fighter aircraft on the list. Does the Air Corps’ lack of fighter aircraft represent a deficiency in the training of our pilots? Have there been discussions with the Garda and the Revenue Commissioners on the use of military aircraft in support of the civilian power’s fight against drugs and arms smuggling, which are all too prevalent, as the Minister knows from his city?

Deputy Willie O’Dea:Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea My understanding is that the 4% relates to a reduction in the payroll. No submissions or representations have been made to me to the effect that our lack of fighter aircraft interferes with training. A function of the Defence Forces, including the Air Corps, is to act as an aid to the civil power, namely, the Garda Síochána. I presume that the Revenue Commissioners are included in this. Discussions are always ongoing between the military authorities and the Garda and Revenue Commissioners.

Deputy Brian O’Shea:Information on Brian O'Shea Zoom on Brian O'Shea How will the 4% saving in payroll costs be achieved?

Deputy Willie O’Dea:Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea As the Deputy may know, we stopped recruiting in late 2008. When people retire, they will not be replaced. Generally speaking, this is how we will proceed.

Deputy Brian O’Shea:Information on Brian O'Shea Zoom on Brian O'Shea Is the figure as high as 4%? If pensions are counted under a separate head, the 4% figure is not a net saving in the Department’s overall budget. Or is it the case that, if the Air Corps is not recruiting, it is not replacing those who retire?

Deputy Willie O’Dea:Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea At the moment.

Deputy Brian O’Shea:Information on Brian O'Shea Zoom on Brian O'Shea To achieve the 4%, how many positions in the Air Corps will not be replaced?

Deputy Willie O’Dea:Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea I will get the exact figure for the Deputy, but the Air Corps is close to its authorised maximum figure.


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