To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding the recent purchase of drones to the value of €1.9 million from Israel by the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter.- DEPUTY CLARE DALY.
The primary focus for the procurement of defensive equipment by the Department of Defence is to maintain the capability of the Irish Defence Forces to fulfil the roles as assigned by Government. This includes undertaking overseas Peace Support Operations, and in this regard to afford the greatest possible force protection to Irish troops whilst on all missions.
The principle of competitive tendering for Government contracts is used by the Department of Defence for the acquisition of defensive equipment for the Defence Forces. Central to those procedures is the requirement to allow fair competition between suppliers through the submission of tenders following advertising of the tender competition on the e-tenders site and on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), where appropriate, in line with the EU procurement directives, including the Directive on the procurement of Defensive and Security Equipment.
Such tender competitions are open to any company or country in accordance with the terms of all UN, OSCE and EU arms embargos or restrictions. There are no such restrictions or embargos in place on Israeli companies.
In following these guidelines and codes, the Department of Defence must deal impartially with all companies that are entitled to enter its procurement competitions and must evaluate tenders on the basis of objective criteria.
The value of contracts for equipment, goods or services procured from Israeli based firms and companies since 2012 is €5.86m, this includes the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles currently operated by the Defence Forces, commonly referred to as UAVs.
These UAVs, are, in effect, an information gathering asset which have no offensive capability. They do not carry weapons. The UAV systems were acquired to enhance the capability of the Defence Forces to carry out surveillance, intelligence gathering and target acquisition for Peace Support Operations and provide a low cost, low risk means to increase capabilities and enhance force protection by performing missions which do not demand the use of manned aircraft.
UAVs have a wide range of civilian and military applications, particularly in the area of surveillance over land and sea. They have the ability to perform tasks that manned systems cannot perform, either for safety or for economic reasons. UAVs can efficiently complement existing manned aircraft or satellites infrastructure used in environmental protection, maritime surveillance, natural disasters, crisis management, border control, etc.
Following a competitive tender process, 4 UAV Systems were procured between 2007 and 2009 from Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd based in Israel. An upgrade of the Defence Forces UAV systems was carried out by the original equipment manufacturer in 2016 at a cost of €1.9m ex VAT. This involved the upgrade of 4 UAV systems, with 3 airframes in each system.
The matter of barring Israeli companies from entering tender competitions for the provision of military goods would be akin to Ir eland unilaterally placing an embargo on such goods from Israel and this raises, inter alia, serious implications for Irish foreign policy which are outside my remit.
Trade policy and market access are largely EU competencies and any restriction or ban on imports from any particular country would have to be concerted at EU level.
The manner in which the Department of Defence procures both goods and services remains consistent with international best practice and is in line with EU and UN decisions on trade embargos. I am satisfied that this is the appropriate way in which to continue, rather than Ireland taking any unilateral decision to target individual companies or countries in that respect.
MINISTER OF STATE AT THE
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE PAUL KEHOE, TD
QUESTION NO: 72
To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the implementation of the Air Corp’s improvement plan for health and safety at the Air Corps premises at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, in view of the fact that 7 out of 8 of the phases of the plan were to be implemented by May 2017.
– DEPUTY CLARE DALY .
F OR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY , 17th May, 2017.
Ref No: 23970/17
The Deputy will be aware that during 2016 the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) conducted
inspections at the Air Corps premises at Casement Aerodrome Baldonnel on three occasions, following which the HSA issued its Report of Inspection to the Air Corps. As recognized in this report, the Air Corps had already commenced activities of improvement and were proactive in implementing change before, during and after the engagement with the HSA.
In late 2016, the Air Corps wrote to the HSA outlining its proposed improvement plan and indicating that the Air Corps is fully committed to implementing the improved safety measures to ensure risks are as low as reasonably practicable.
This improvement plan is being conducted over eight phases. The military authorities have advised me that six of the eight phases have now been fully completed and a further phase is progressing well and will be completed shortly. The final phase is a continuous ongoing process.
MINISTER OF STATE AT THE
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE (PAUL KEHOE, T.D . )
QUESTION NO: 73
To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the Defence Forces performed aid to civil power duties at Shannon Airport on 25 April 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – DEPUTY CLARE DALY.
FOR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY, 17TH MAY, 2017
The Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána have primary responsibility for the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) which, in practice, means to assist An Garda Síochána when requested to do so.
Since 5th February 2003, the Gardaí have requested support from the Defence Forces at Shannon Airport on occasion. The decision to seek support from the Defence Forces is an operational matter for An Garda Síochána.
I can confirm that An Garda Síochána requested assistance from t he Defence Forces at Shannon Airport on the 25 th April 2017 and personnel were deployed to Shannon Airport on that date.
The issue of overflights by foreign military aircraft and the use of Shannon Airport by foreign military aircraft is the responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. Successive Governments have made overflight and landing facilities available at Shannon Airport to the United States for well over 50 years.
Minister of State at the Department of Defence,
Paul Kehoe T.D.
To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to improve the pay, conditions and contracts of Defence Forces members following on from his meeting with a group (details supplied) in May 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter.-DEPUTY CLARE DALY.
FOR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY, 17TH MAY, 2017.
Rates of remuneration and conditions of employment in each part of the Irish public sector have traditionally been set by reference to levels of pay available in related public sector employments.
I believe that measures contained in the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) and the provisions introduced in Budget 2016 and 2017 will be of benefit generally to members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF). The provisions set out in the LRA are an extension of the provision of the Haddington Road Agreement and all existing dispute resolution procedures continue to apply
The LRA provided for increased salaries during 2016 and 2017 in a manner which benefited the lower paid. These benefits come in the form of increases in gross pay in 2016 for those earning up to €31,000 and in 2017 for all those earning up to €65,000. In addition the Government has introduced legislation which has commenced the process to reduce the pay reduction applied under the FEMPI Acts.
In relation to the Pensions Related Deduction (PRD), which is commonly referred to as the ‘Pension Levy’, the exemption threshold for payment of the ‘Levy’ will increase substantially during the course of the agreement from €15,000 to €28,750 which means that annual income subject to the levy below €28,750 will no longer be liable to the deduction.
In terms of remuneration going forward, f ollowing the publication of the Pay Commission’s report on 9 May 2017, the Government intends to initiate negotiations on a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement ahead of Budget 2018 considerations. Future remuneration of Defence Forces personnel will be dealt with within this process. I understand that both RACO and PDFORRA have been invited to the forthcoming discussions.
Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D.,
Minister of State at the Department of Defence