Dáil Éireann - Volume 557 - 13 November, 2002

Written Answers. - Emergency Planning.

  156. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the degree to which and the source from which Ireland could seek assistance in the event of a major terrorist attack; the time required to take necessary legislative or other procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21889/02]

  Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): The attacks on the US in September 2001 clearly changed the context for emergency planning. The Government set up a task force on emergency planning, which I chair. The task force reviews the various emergency planning and response issues and promotes co-ordination in all aspects of emergency planning. The task force continues to meet on a regular basis.

  My Department takes the lead role in emergency planning to meet the new threat from international terrorism and from any escalation in international tensions, including co-ordination of the responses by the various agencies involved.

  While there is in place an extensive framework of peacetime emergency plans, it became clear that the basis on which emergency planning had been carried out needed to be reviewed. This was necessary to take account of the possibility, however remote, of many different attack scenarios which may include chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or conventional attacks on this State and its people or on neighbouring countries which could have an indirect impact on this country.

[546]   The responsibility for specific emergency planning functions and response arrangements remains with the relevant Departments and Government agencies, as heretofore, and inputs from the Defence Forces and Civil Defence are factored in to support these plans.

  The degree to which Ireland would require assistance in the event of a major terrorist attack would depend very much on the nature, the scale and the complexity of such an attack.

  Countries with particular expertise, resources available and skilled personnel would offer assistance to Ireland in such circumstances and there would be no legislative barriers to accepting such offers of aid, should it be required.

  Following the events of 11 September 2001, international efforts have moved to improve arrangements to share resources. Ireland has played a full part with other European Union member states in working to put procedures in place to ensure that mutual assistance arrangements can be effected, with the minimum of delay.

  The European Union has played a key part in developing response measures to assist member states and third countries in the light of possible further terrorist attacks. The Department of the Environment and Local Government has lead responsibility for representing Ireland on EU civil protection matters and forms part of a network of all the member states. The European Community Civil Protection Mechanism provides for assistance, co-ordinated by the European Commission to member states and third countries in emergencies. The development of the mechanism has been brought forward and strengthened since September 2001. Specialist workshops have been conducted to advance the preparedness and response capabilities of the member states and of the EU in the fields of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, CBRN, emergencies. A joint programme to improve co-operation between member states in the fight against terrorism in CBRN emergencies is being prepared by the Council and the Commission and is to be ready for the European Council in Copenhagen in December 2002.

  This process is under continued development and the Danish Presidency, together with the Commission and the forthcoming Greek Presidency, is conducting a number of important capacity building activities. Ireland is pleased to participate in these activities through relevant Departments and agencies.