HC Deb 26 April 1971 vol 816 cc52-3W
Mr. Kilfedder

asked the Minister of State for Defence (1) why no guards were placed on the two Royal Navy launches in Baltimore, County Cork, Eire; whether guards are placed on Royal Navy launches in other foreign countries; and who authorised that these two Royal Navy launches should be left unprotected;

(2) what is the estimated cost of the damage done to the two Royal Navy launches which were the subject of the attack by the Irish Republic Army in Baltimore, County Cork, Eire;

(3) what is the estimated total cost of the survey, which began about four years ago, and which is being carried out by the Hydrographic Department of the Royal Navy, of the Coast of the Eire Republic, and whether this work was undertaken at the request of the Eire Government;

(4) whether the Royal Navy hydro-graphic survey of the coast of the Republic of Eire will be suspended until the Eire Government takes effective measures to deal with the Irish Republican Army, which has threatened further measures against the Royal Navy ships engaged on the survey.

Lord Balniel

In the early hours of the morning of 20th April, two R.N. survey launches, the "Stork" and the "Puffin", belonging to H.M.S. "Hecate", were damaged by explosives while at their moorings in Baltimore Harbour, County Cork. Damage to the "Puffin" was slight, but the hull of the "Stork" was wrecked beyond repair and some of her equipment has been seriously damaged. The exact cost of making good the damage is still to be assessed. As originally planned, H.M.S. "Hecate" has now collected from Baltimore the "Puffin" and the equipment salvaged from the "Stork", together with the crews of the two launches.

At the time of the incident, the launches, were being used in one of a series of port surveys conducted by the Hydrographer of the Navy over the last few years on behalf of the Irish Government, who have no means of their own of carrying out surveys of this kind. This particular survey has now been completed and no more surveys in Irish territorial waters are planned for this year. Future survey programmes will be decided in conjunction with the Irish authorities. It is not practicable to calculate the cost of this particular series of surveys; no specific charge has been made to the Irish authorities, since, when the surveys were commissioned, it was decided that they fell within the normal operations of the Hydrographer of the Navy.

So far as the security of the launches is concerned, the Government of the Irish Republic accept that responsibility for the launches while they were moored in Baltimore harbour was a matter for the local authorities. This follows normal naval practice, whereby the commanding officer concerned makes such arrangements as he thinks necessary for the security of his ship and boats in the light of all the relevant circumstances.

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