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A History of the Irish Naval Service.

Author: Aidan McIvor Published by: Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 1994.

Ireland, like New Zealand, is a small nation of 3.5 million people surrounded by rough ocean and dependent on tourism and agricultural exports. Like New Zealand, Ireland is a former British territory which has found some security in partnership with prosperous neighbours.

Predictably the Irish Navy, like the RNZN, has usually been reliant on secondhand Royal Navy warships or new vessels subsidised by its economic partners -- the European Community in the case of Ireland or Australia in the case of New Zealand.

As McIvor sees it, the Irish Navy, like its New Zealand counterpart, has fared badly at the hands of bureaucrats and politicians, who have taken their cue from a population not much interested in maritime security interests. In both Ireland and New Zealand the public has seen the defence forces as essentially the Army and a means of job training. As McIvor points out, the much greater technological sophistication that modern naval forces have in small countries has not been generally grasped.

In 1961 the Irish naval service submitted a memorandum that Ireland required eight anti-submarine frigates of the 1300-ton Blackwood type, six Tonclass coastal minesweepers, and twelve seaward defence boats of 120 tons. At the time, Eire had three old corvettes. New Zealand's naval staff was at the time drawing up a similar optimistic list of their wants: six frigates, four minesweepers, a tanker and six patrol boats.

Both navies have learnt to cope with less. The Irish Navy today has one oceangoing helicopter-equipped patrol corvette, four big trawler type patrol vessels and two recently acquired ex-RN 700-ton corvettes redundant from Hong Kong.

The corvettes speed of 30 knots allows them to run from bad weather and the deep water limitations of the craft and their lack of range highlight the Irish and New Zealand navies' main requirements for size and range, which was finally achieved by Ireland with the patrol frigate Eithne and with New Zealand's Anzac frigates. However in both cases the programmes were started at what appears unacceptable political and economic cost and McIvor suggests that it is quite likely that Ireland will revert to European Community subsidised secondhand purchases of naval vessels.

Ireland has in some ways been ahead of New Zealand in naval matters. It has had an all-diesel fleet for the last quarter century, finishing with steam in 1971. It has five modern Dauphin helicopters in service, two of them fully navalised. According to McIvor, the Irish naval service considers the Dauphin a much more modern helicopter than the Lynx and Seasprite under New Zealand consideration. Ireland has maintained a very high availability of its ships and at any one time six of its seven offshore patrol vessels are likely to be at sea in Ireland's 200 mile zone guarding the fisheries and on the look out for gunrunners.

While British commentators would like to see the Irish Navy showing a greater interest in anti-submarine defence, the European Community has never, as McIvor points out, been prepared to subsidise Irish purchase of other than EEZ patrol equipment. Except for the Eithne, which has a sophisticated sonar, the Irish vessels have only fish locating Simrads. The acquisition of the Dauphin helicopters, however, would allow for a change of orientation to a more purely naval roles
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Author:Miles, Robert
Publication:New Zealand International Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1997
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