Dáil Éireann - Volume 503 - 01 April, 1999
Written Answers. - Search and Rescue Facilities.
Mr. Kenny Mr. Kenny
94. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Defence the plans, if any, he has to provide the Air Corps with medium lift helicopters which would allow it to undertake search and rescue around the coast when the current contract between the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources and Bond Helicopters for the provision of search and rescue facilities at Dublin and Shannon expires. [9278/99]
Mr. M. Smith Mr. M. Smith
Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): The Irish Marine Emergency Service (IMES) of the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources has overall responsibility for the provision of a marine search and rescue service in this country. The Air Corps provides a search and rescue service from Finner, County Donegal and Waterford Regional Airport as part of the overall search and rescue arrangements. Bond Helicopters provide a search and rescue service, using medium lift helicopters, from Shannon and Dublin Airports under contract to IMES.
The service operating from Dublin Airport commenced on 1 July 1998, prior to which the Air Corps provided search and rescue coverage on the east coast. It had been intended that the new service would be crewed by Air Corps personnel  and would operate from Casement Aerodrome once certain legal difficulties concerning the question of the basing of a civil operation at a military airbase had been resolved. This latter element is being pursued with the Department of Public Enterprise and the Irish Aviation Authority. The high incidence of retirement of Air Corps flying officers in recent years meant that the Air Corps was not in a position to provide pilots for the new service. Provision was, however, made in the contract with the operator for the introduction of Air Corps crew at a future date. The new service is currently operating from Dublin Airport with the option of relocating to Baldonnel at a future date.
The Government considered the Price Waterhouse reviews of the Air Corps and the Naval Service in the middle of last year. A planning and implementation process has been set in train to give effect to the Government's decision. I have asked the chief of staff in conjunction with the GOC of the Air Corps and the flag officer commanding the Naval Service to submit implementation plans for my consideration to give effect to the effectiveness and efficiency recommendations in the Price Waterhouse report.
In parallel, and as part of the general White Paper process, I have asked for a submission from the Chief of Staff to address the long-term air and sea requirements of the State which would form the basis of the longer term development of the Air Corps and Naval Service and which will be supported by the ongoing effectiveness and efficiency measures. I understand that a considerable amount of work has been done and I would expect to receive draft proposals for my consideration in the near future. These proposals will include, inter alia, organisation personnel, infrastructure and options in relation to future equipment for both services.
Dáil Éireann 503 Written Answers. Search and Rescue Facilities.