O’Dea rows back on plan to replace ageing naval ships

THE economic crisis may result in significant delays for plans to replace the country’s aging naval vessels.

Ships are deemed too old if they have served 30 years, and the Government had planned to have three of the navy’s eight ships replaced by 2011.

The LÉ Emer is already past her sell-by date, having been commissioned in January 1978.

The LÉ Aoife was commissioned in November 1979 and the LÉ Aisling in May 1980.

Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea hinted yesterday all three might not be replaced by 2011, because of the economic situation. However, he hoped to get new vessels as near to that date as possible.

Even if tenders were agreed today it would take a minimum of two years before replacement vessels were built, put through their trials and brought into service.

If the tendering process was cancelled the navy might have to wait between five and 10 years for new ships.

The minister was speaking at Collins Barracks, Cork, yesterday where he reviewed a parade of soldiers who will shortly leave for peacekeeping duties in Kosovo.

Mr O’Dea also commented on recent calls by the Defence Forces representative association, PDFORRA, for a drop in the pensions levy for servicemen.

The minister said the Government couldn’t review the levy for one group of public servants alone.

He said when troops went abroad they were given “generous overseas allowances” and pointed out that these were tax free. “I think they are adequately compensated,” Mr O’Dea said.

The minister said that despite the recession he hoped to maintain Ireland’s contribution to overseas peacekeeping at current levels.

The army is committed to maintaining up to 10% of its force on overseas duties.

Mr O’Dea took the salute yesterday from 221 men and woman who, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Des Bergin, will form the 40th Infantry Battalion in Kosovo.


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