Supporting the Air Corps in its mission
Sir, – It would be easier not to write this letter, but these matters need to be discussed openly. An Taoiseach speaking in Washington DC in response to confirmation that a request for Air Corps support by the Coast Guard on Monday night was denied due to a lack of experienced personnel, said “It’s well known the Air Corps have lost personnel, air traffic controllers.” No problem then?
There is a very serious problem. Decisions taken by Government ministers, and Department of Defence civil servants, not to provide adequate funding for the Army Air Corps have resulted in the Air Corps being indirectly implicated in the Irish Coast Guard tragedy off the coast of Mayo (“Staff shortage initially curbed Defence Forces’ role in Blacksod emergency”, March 16th).
Ireland as a neutral state does not need an expensive offensive air force.
However, due to its geographic island location Ireland does need a comprehensive air-sea rescue service and the Army Air Corps should play an important or even the primary role in this service.
Up until the early 1990s the Air Corps had primary responsibility for air sea rescue, but this changed in questionable circumstances when this essential service was partly privatised, and the role of the Air Corps significantly downgraded.
Recruitment and retention of essential personnel have been problematic in the Air Corps for many years, partly for reasons of inadequate financial resources, but also due to leadership problems in Department of Defence, and in the Defence Forces itself.
While it is necessary in a democracy that civilian control is exercised over the military, this has been taken to extreme levels in Ireland, where civil servants, with little knowledge of military affairs or requirements, exercise a stranglehold over all military matters, sometimes with dangerous consequences.
If the problems in the Air Corps were “well known” Taoiseach, then they should have been resolved. – Yours,etc,