Minister awaits briefing on delay to special forces deployment

Two-hour response time to terror event in Dublin ‘an operational matter’, says Paul Kehoe

The Defence Forces conducted a major exercise in  Dublin last week to assess the responsiveness of the emergency forces during a possible terror attack

The Defence Forces conducted a major exercise in Dublin last week to assess the responsiveness of the emergency forces during a possible terror attack

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Junior defence minister Paul Kehoe will await a briefing with the Defence Forces on delays in the deployment of special forces to a terror attack before mulling any recommendations for extra resources.

Mr Kehoe, Minister of State with special responsibility for defence, was responding to a report that a shortage of helicopter pilots means that it would take the Army Ranger Wing, the special forces unit at the Curragh, Co Kildare, at least two hours to arrive at the scene of a terror incident in Dublin city.

Pilot shortages and restrictions on personnel set by the Department of Defence limits the availability of helicopters to the Defence Forces, while An Garda Síochána’s two helicopters are not suitable to airlift soldiers carrying weapons that are designed and equipped for patrol duties.

The Sunday Times, citing security sources familiar with drafting plans to deal with a serious incident, reported the two-hour delay in dispatching special forces to a terror event in Dublin from the Curragh.

Simulation

The Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána held a simulation of a terror incident last Wednesday to assess the responsiveness of the emergency forces and how they would work in tandem, focusing on how the military’s special forces would deal with a request from the Garda for assistance.

Mr Kehoe said that almost 500 personnel were involved in the exercise and that it was “an operational matter” for the Defence Forces, its chief of staff and senior officers to assess response times. He would, however, consider any recommendations made by the Defence Forces arising from that briefing, he said.

“They have to sit down and look at the lessons they learned. When they do a joint exercise like this involving 500 people, they are not going to have a report in two or three days. I will get a summary but I await the full lessons. Whatever recommendations come up, we will consider them,” he said.

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