Government must address questions about handling of Search and Rescue services contract – Sorca Clarke TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence, Sorca Clarke TD, has said that the Defence Minister must give clarity about the proposed tendering of Search and Rescue services to private operators.
Teachta Clarke said Minister Coveney must address ongoing concerns that the winning bidder of the Search and Rescue services contract could be allowed to base their fixed wing aircraft at British bases. This would mean Irish Defence Forces would cease to have any control of data or intelligence gathered over Ireland as the aircraft will be departing from a British airfield.
She will raise the issue with the Minister under Priority Questions today, Tuesday 17th November.
Teachta Clarke said:
“The proposed tendering of Search and Rescue services (SAR) to private operators raises many serious questions.
“Private companies will soon be asked to submit tenders for a contract worth €60million annually, to provide a new SAR service. The existing service is currently being provided by the Irish Coast Guard, CHC Ireland and the Air Corps.
“About six private aircraft companies are expected to bid for the contract, of which at least two have fixed-wing aircraft based in Britain. At least one of these is also contracted to do clandestine work for the British Ministry of Defence, which in and of itself raises many intelligence concerns.
“The winning bidder will likely be compelled to base four SAR helicopters at Irish bases. It will also be required to provide a fixed-wing aircraft or drone to provide top cover for rescue missions and be available on a 24-hour basis.
“However, it is widely reported that consideration is being given to the proposal that the winning bidder will be allowed to base their fixed wing aircraft at British bases. Such a decision would mean Irish Defence Forces would cease to have any control of data or intelligence gathered over Ireland as the aircraft will be departing from a British airfield.
“This deeply worrying development could have major implications for our Defence Forces. Many serious concerns are being raised about this issue at the moment, by military intelligence and Air Corps personnel. I share these concerns and will ask the Minister to provide urgent clarity on this extremely serious matter.
“I will be raising this apparent disregard of the Defence Forces agreement directly with Minister Simon Coveney under Priority Questions and will seek detailed clarity as to his and his department’s intentions on this vital issue.”