Killeen rejects call not to cut coastal patrols by 200 days


MINISTER FOR Defence Tony Killeen has rejected Fine Gael calls to reverse a decision to reduce by 200 the number of days the Naval Service patrols the coast in an attempt to cut costs.

Fine Gael defence spokesman Jimmy Deenihan appealed for a reversal of what he called “a very foolish decision” because of the threat of drugs and other forms of smuggling by sea.

Mr Killeen said however he was satisfied the Naval Service “can continue to battle successfully against the threat of drug smuggling within its revised patrol pattern for 2010”, a total of 1,480 days by the vessels in the fleet.

“We all share deputy Deenihan’s concern about the impact of drugs in our society. A substantial proportion is imported by sea and unfortunately, the people involved in this business have found all sorts of ways to get the narcotics into the country. Patrolling per se is not a hugely important part of the system for detecting the arrival or the possible importation of drugs.

“As electronic surveillance and automatic identification systems of one kind or another have become more sophisticated,” the Naval Service “is generally called on to intercept a vessel that is already under way. Naval Service vessels happen by chance to come across ships importing illegal drugs on a far less frequent basis.

“Naval Service patrols at sea undoubtedly act as a deterrent in the fight against drug trafficking. However, this role is increasingly governed by intelligence-led operations and greater co-operation between both national and international agencies.”

Mr Deenihan said: “The savings . . . will be lost when we examine the health implications, the money spent on prison places and the cost of crime that often leads to drug-related murders.”