Dáil Éireann - Volume 514 - 17 February, 2000

Written Answers. - Army Ranger Wing.

84. Mr. Belton asked the Minister for Defence the future of the Army ranger wing. [4626/00]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): The Army Ranger Wing was formally established in 1979 to assist the Garda Síochána, under aid to the civil power arrangements, in dealing with incidents such as hijackings and kidnappings. Members of the Army Ranger Wing are selected from among suitable serving personnel who volunteer for service with the ARW and they are expected to serve with the unit for about two years after which time they are, as a general rule, returned to their units and replaced. Members are trained to requisite levels of motivation, physical fitness and skill at arms for their specialist role.

The Army Ranger Wing is liable to be called upon to undertake duties in any part of the country and the decision as to whether the unit would be deployed in a particular situation would be taken by the chief of staff following consultation with myself as Minister for Defence. At present, there are 30 members of the Army Ranger Wing serving with INTERFET in East Timor for a period of four months. Before personnel from any unit are committed to overseas service, the operational requirements at home are fully assessed and take priority at all times. I am fully satisfied that the operational capacity of the Army Ranger Wing has not been compromised by the involvement with INTERFET. I feel that such service will be a very beneficial experience for the personnel concerned.

There is no plan to alter the current status of the Army Ranger Wing.