SPEECH BY MR. MICHAEL SMITH, T.D., MINISTER FOR DEFENCE,
Tánaiste, Chief of Staff, Secretary General of the Department of Defence, Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, representatives of Appledore Ship Builders, Dáil Deputies, Reverend Father(s), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and particularly the men and women of the Naval Service, I am delighted to be presiding once again at the commissioning ceremony of a new Naval Service ship.
ON THE OCCASION OF THE COMMISSIONING OF THE NAVAL SERVICE FISHERY PROTECTION PATROL VESSEL L.E. NIAMH
ON TUESDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 2001
The commissioning of any vessel carries with it a great sense of achievement and engenders a deep pride. This is the case with today's commissioning of L.E. Niamh. This is the second new ship to be commissioned into the Naval Service fleet during my term in office and, indeed, since L.E. Eithne was commissioned in 1984. No new ship for fifteen years, then two in four years. I have to say that I am very satisfied with what has been achieved by this Government for the Naval Service these past few years. L.E. Niamh will be a tremendous asset to the Service and Lieutenant Commander Gerry O'Flynn and his crew are eagerly looking forward to working the new ship to its full potential. The state of the art equipment on board the ship is second to none and the ship is destined to play an integral part in the protection of our maritime waters.
When the contract for L.E. Niamh was signed a project team was set up comprising civil servants from my Department and personnel from the Naval Service. Each member of the project team was assigned a different area of responsibility. I want to acknowledge the contribution of each member of the project team, Commander Paul Keaney, Commander Liam Doyle, Lieutenant Commander Gerry O'Flynn (the ship's captain), Sub. Lieutenant Ger Menehane, and of course Margaret Madden and John Hanney, from the Contracts Branch in the Department of Defence, who worked extensively on the project over the past 18 months.
I want to thank in a special way the entire team at Appledore for their sterling work on the new vessel. In particular I want to mention Mr. Jim Wilson, Managing Director; Mr. Geoff Dean, Technical Director; and Mr. Clifford Brown, who are with us in Cork today. I know that various sub-contractors were involved at different stages and I thank each of the companies involved for their efforts.
I want to make special mention of Lieutenant Commander Mick Malone from the Naval Service. He has spent a huge amount of time and energy on this particular project. In fact, he moved his family over to England for the duration of the building of the ship. I want to pay a special word of thanks to his wife Mary and children. Lieutenant Commander Malone made a substantial contribution to the successful completion of the project.
The Naval Service continues to present a wide range of challenging roles to all its personnel, now more so than ever before. The continuing success of the Naval Service in fulfilling the roles of fishery protection, marine search and rescue and its many other tasks has resulted in a much more widespread public appreciation of the importance of the Naval Service to the entire community. The sea is widely accepted as being an economic asset and the Government recognises the importance of protecting Irish maritime interests. It is worth noting that upwards of 93% of Naval Service time is spent on fishery protection duties.
Along with the other elements of the Defence Forces, the Naval Service make an important contribution across a wide variety of roles assigned by Government. Given that Ireland is a relatively small country, it makes sense to concentrate on developing a single, multi-role organisation with a range of capabilities appropriate to the diversity of its taskings. The success of the Naval Service in fishery protection, in search and rescue, in providing aid to the civil power, particularly drug interdiction, underlines the good sense of this approach for a small country like Ireland where the provision of a series of specialised organisations is not an economically viable option.
I know that some people think that the Naval Service is the only arm of the Defence Forces engaged in fishery protection. However, I would like to mention that the Air Corps also plays an important role in this regard. With their two modern Maritime Patrol CASA Aircraft, Air Corps personnel are continually monitoring our offshore waters and providing first hand advice and information to the Naval Service on activities of fishing vessels which is very important in the overall package. This, I can assure them, has been very much appreciated. On behalf of myself as Minister for Defence and of the Government, I extend my thanks to all personnel of the Naval Service and Air Corps for their valued work.
Finally, to the Captain, Lieutenant Commander Gerry O'Flynn, and crew of L.E. Niamh, I extend my very best wishes. Safe sailing. Thank you.