Irish Army Bomb Disposal Stats

I noticed these statistics given in the Senate today. The debate was on the need or otherwise for an EOD team to cover Co. Donegal and the Derry/Tyrone border.

Deputy Áine Brady: I am taking the Adjournment on behalf of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Willie O’Dea. The primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order rests with the Garda Síochána. The Defence Forces, pursuant to their role of rendering aid to the civil power, assist the Garda as required. The explosive ordnance disposal, EOD, team responds when a request for assistance is made to the relevant brigade by a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of inspector.

EOD teams are on call throughout the country 24 hours a day, seven days a week to deal with any suspicious objects or devices that are identified. EOD teams operating in their role as aid to the civil power provide a unique response capability within the State to deal with such incidents. This capability has been developed over many years in operational environments at home and overseas. EOD teams have been provided with significant training and specialised equipment to allow personnel to operate safely in dealing with incidents involving suspect devices. Historically, EOD deployments have been subdivided out to formations that have the territorial responsibility for a particular area. With the onset of violence in Northern Ireland, additional teams were deployed along the Border. The EOD team based at Finner Camp provided the western brigade with a rapid deployable EOD capability in response to subversive activity within its area of Border responsibility. The team was deployed on the basis of evaluation and assessment of the then existing threat.

The Defence Forces EOD assets are deployed in proportion to current operational requirements, which are in turn informed by ongoing intelligence and threat evaluation. In recent years, the assessments by the Defence Forces, in consultation with the Garda Síochána, suggested that threat levels in the region had reduced to such an extent that the requirement to have an EOD team based permanently in Finner Camp was no longer warranted. The statistical evidence provided by the Defence Forces shows that EOD call-outs are now predominantly urban-based in areas such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford. The emphasis has moved from subversive to criminal activity-based EOD call-outs with attention focused in the larger cities. The figures for 2008 show that of a total of 180 EOD call-outs, the eastern brigade responded to 111, the southern brigade responded to 37, the Defence Forces Training Centre responded to 12 and the western brigade responded to 20. Only three of the 180 call-outs related to the Border area of the western brigade which stretches between Donegal and Cavan.

The EOD team does not deal solely with suspect devices. The 180 call-outs responded to in 2008 included assistance with the removal of old ordnance, the disposal of so-called time expired pyrotechnics, and flares and objects washed ashore. To date in 2009 there have been only five EOD call-outs in the Donegal area, one of which related to the disposal of fireworks. The security situation prevailing in the Donegal area is assessed as not requiring an EOD team committed full time in the area.

As part of an ongoing review of operational activity and, in particular, aid to civil power operations, the Minister for Defence, Deputy O’Dea, agreed in November 2008, having considered the advice of the military authorities, that EOD resources could be utilised more efficiently in the western brigade area by relocating the EOD capability from Finner Camp to Custume Barracks, Athlone. Pre-deployed equipment and vehicles remain located at Finner Camp. This EOD cover is similar to that provided to other Border areas. This rationalisation of EOD capacity provides for more efficient, effective and economic use of EOD personnel, resources and equipment having regard to the area to be covered and the predominant locations where call-outs occur. The placement of the ordnance officer in brigade headquarters also provides the ordnance officer with greater operational and administrative back-up in respect of his duties for the entire brigade area.

The conditions which pertained in the Border area during the Troubles are generally absent today and do not require the same resource commitment as heretofore. In the event of a need to react urgently to an emergency situation, the EOD team can be moved rapidly from Custume Barracks to Finner Camp.

There are well-established channels of consultation and co-operation between representatives of the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána. EOD operations are discussed at regular meetings of the improvised explosive device working group. The Defence Forces also liaise with the Garda Síochána in the technical analysis of evidence recovered from EOD operations. The Defence Forces, in conjunction with the Garda Síochána, keep the threat assessment under continual review. The Minister, Deputy O’Dea, has been informed by his military officials that they are of the view that there has been no increase in the threat level to warrant the redeployment of the EOD team to Finner Camp, despite recent incidents in Northern Ireland.

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