Heated Dáil exchanges over New York-bound Naval Service vessel

LÉ Samuel Beckett to play role in State’s bid for UN general assembly seat but FF unhappy

Members of the Naval Service leave the LÉ Samuel Beckett aboard a RIB on a search and recovery mission. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Members of the Naval Service leave the LÉ Samuel Beckett aboard a RIB on a search and recovery mission. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

An Irish Naval Service vessel is crossing the Atlantic to arrive in New York next week as the United Nations general assembly meets.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney confirmed the trip but insisted it was not solely linked to the Government’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council from 2021-2022.

The LÉ Samuel Beckett will have an “ambassadorial role” but will engage with the diaspora on the east coast, he said.

Raising the issue in the Dáil, Fianna Fáil defence spokesman Jack Chambers asked if the ship was being used to “wine and dine officials or is there serious business going on”.

The Dublin West TD said the visit was taking place when naval ships at home were docked because of lack of personnel and with already “considerable costs being incurred” by the Department of Foreign Affairs in its bid for the security council seat.

The LÉ Samuel Beckett is a patrol vessel and left Ireland on Monday. It will be in the US from Tuesday, September 24th to October 7th.

The vessel will be in New York next week when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will speak at the UN climate summit while President Michael D Higgins will address the assembly.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney will also hold bilateral meetings as part of Ireland’s bid for the security council seat against Canada and Norway. President Higgins will also be involved in meetings of island nations on sustainable development.

Rescue operations

Mr Coveney said the Naval Service’s role is not exclusively for fisheries protection or intercepting drugs. It has a broader remit shown by its role in the Mediterranean migrant rescue operations.

“They will essentially be playing an ambassadorial role but not just the security council campaign which is just one element of what they’re doing. They are also reaching out to the diaspora in big Irish cities on the east coast.”

He said that naval ships have been sent abroad with a diplomatic role many times in the past. “I’d appeal to people not to try to make this into something it’s not.”

According to the Department of Defence the ship will host several business events to support the work of the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

It will host several open days for the public, particularly the Irish diaspora, and will participate in events commemorating the famine.

The ocean crossing will also be used as training for personnel, particularly junior officers and cadets.