Foreign Military Aircraft in Irish Territory

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

My next question is very relevant, in geographic terms, to the Deputy Leader, who hails from an Atlantic perch located in the south west. I do not mean to precipitate any international incident but in recent weeks there has been press coverage in respect of bombers from a foreign power – at the height of the Cold War these were routinely used to carry nuclear warheads – flying down the west coast, close to Irish airspace. During a discussion which took place on radio, I heard a defence analyst stating that Ireland does not have air defence radar of any description and that it only has the capacity to detect aircraft with operational transponders. In other words, we are asking any foreign powers, terrorists or invaders that wish to make incursions into our airspace to kindly turn on their transponders prior to doing so in order that we might be alerted to their presence. Will the Leader clarify the position in respect of this matter? In light of the fact that Ireland has a long coastline, is it the case that the authorities here have no way of knowing if an aircraft is flying overhead if said aircraft does not have its transponder switched on?

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