Defence in ‘Yes Minister’ style claims

The Department of Defence has been accused of ‘Yes Minister’ style answers to key questions about changes to how the naval services are deployed in the Mediterranean.

Last July, Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, secured Dáil approval for the redeployment of the Naval Service from the purely humanitarian migrant rescue mission Operation Pontus to the more aggressive anti-people smuggler Operation Sophia.

Amid much fanfare it was announced that this switch-over was likely to take place while LÉ William Butler Yeats was on its current tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea. However, the Department of Defence has now said that the transfer will take place ‘at an appropriate juncture,’ having admitted that two months on the necessary preparatory work required for the change-over hasn’t been completed.

Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on Justice, Lisa Chambers, said such a statement was akin to a typical line used in the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister comedies.

“It appears there’s a lack of direction. At this stage it should be known what stage they are at and when this will happen,” she said.

In a statement the Department of Defence added: ‘LÉ William Butler Yeats is the naval vessel currently deployed in the Mediterranean and it will continue humanitarian search and rescue operations as part of Operation Pontus until its scheduled return to Haulbowline later this month.’

The statement appears to show that the switch over to Operation Sophia will not happen on LÉ William Butler Yeats’ watch.

She is due to return to her base at Haulbowline Island on October 6. She will be replaced in the Mediterranean but LÉ Niamh which will leave the base on September 29.

Meanwhile, The crew of LÉ William Butler Yeats, under the captaincy of Lieutenant Commander Eric Timon, located and rescued a total of 285 migrants from two rubber vessels during two search and rescue operations off the Lebanese coast. During the course of the second operation three people were declared dead. Their bodies are now on board the vessel.

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