12. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the purpose of the presence of three Royal Navy patrol and training ships in Haulbowline on 27 and 28 March 2018. (Question 20411/18 asked on 10 May 2018)

Deputy Clare Daly: This question relates to the presence of three British Royal Navy patrol and training ships in Haulbowline in March. It is part of a thread of visits involving vessels from foreign navies, including NATO warships. We had a visit from HMS Illustrious, an Invincible class aircraft carried which was involved in the Iraq war, and, in 2016, a flotilla of NATO warships was present during the centenary celebration for the 1916 Rising, which was quite ironic. Why are we allowing Irish ports to be used by NATO warships as somewhere to rest and recuperate after their war games and for our Naval Service to extend them a warm welcome?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: The three Royal Navy university training boats, named HMS Charger, HMS Biter and HMS Pursuer, were in Ireland as part of a routine visit.  During the course of their visit, Naval Service cadets and members of the Naval Service Reserve participated in cross-service training in navigation and seamanship. I am also advised that, while in Haulbowline, members of the crews of the three vessels paid a courtesy visit to the Flag Officer Commanding of the Naval Service, FOCNS, Commodore Mick Malone.

The Ireland-UK memorandum of understanding on defence and security co-operation provides for bilateral engagement on exercises, training and military education.

Visits from foreign naval vessels are a long-standing and common practice not only in Ireland but worldwide.