Defence Forces to take more active role


ARMY:THE DEFENCE Forces are set to take a more active role in assisting to clear ice and snow and provide emergency transport.

Troops and vehicles were deployed in counties Kildare, Wexford and Galway yesterday and an air ambulance was used for emergency medical transport.

Liaison officers have been appointed to a number of emergency relief co-ordination centres.

A spokesman said that since Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea announced the Defence Forces were available on Thursday, the air ambulance had made six missions in 48 hours. The normal yearly average was 75 missions.

Most of the air ambulance missions involved bringing neonatal patients from Carlow, Wexford, Kerry, Cork and Cavan to hospital in Dublin. A heart patient was transported from Cork.

Yesterday afternoon an Air Corps helicopter lifted a repair crew to the RTÉ mast at Kippure in the Wicklow Mountains. The spokesman said the Defence Forces had a role in assisting in the protection of vital infrastructure, which would include the State’s broadcast facilities.

Ten troops and one six-wheel-drive truck were deployed in each of Newbridge, Maynooth and Clane in Co Kildare. The troops were working in co-operation with the county council in clearing paths of snow and ice and providing transport.

In Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, the Defence Forces were employed in helping a district nurse reach isolated patients; in Co Galway they were assisting a palliative care nurse.

The spokesman said it was likely the Army would now become more involved in efforts to assist local authorities, as more requests were received from local authorities and regional co-ordinating centres. “The important thing is that we have an officer in each of the co-ordination centres who can instantly give advice to the civilian authorities on what we have available,” he said.

“Our equipment, 4x4 jeeps, trucks and personnel are on standby across 17 barracks around the country and we will fulfil all requests, within out capability,” said the spokesman, who compared the operation to flood relief operations last November.

A spokesman for Minster for the Environment John Gormley said assessments of need would be made by the co-ordination centres over coming days on a regional basis in line with weather forecasts which predicted further heavy snowfalls.