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Transport Minister Eamon Ryan accused of being ‘asleep at the wheel' over Dublin Airport

Passengers in the arrivals hall of Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Dominic McGrath, PA

The Transport Minister has said nothing will be avoided as part of efforts to ensure the smooth running of Dublin Airport.

The airport made international headlines last weekend after long queues stretched outside the terminals and more than 1,000 people missed their flights.

The issue has dominated politics this week, ahead of a busy bank holiday weekend at the Republic of Ireland’s main airport.

Eamon Ryan faced accusations in the Dáil today that he had been “asleep at the wheel” over the issue.

Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty told Mr Ryan: “Everyone knew that aviation would rebound once the pandemic subsided, with pent-up demand for international travel, such as it is. Everyone, minister, except yourself and the DAA.”

The Donegal TD said he was “not convinced” by the plans announced by the DAA to address the problem and said that the issue was ultimately the responsibility of the Department of Transport.

He said: “Your Government can’t get an international airport to function properly on your watch. What does it say to the tourism sector that relies on Dublin Airport to function properly and provide a service that tourists can depend on?

“The fact that the airport plans to function with security staff levels at 70% of pre-pandemic levels is not acceptable.

“Now, you’ve been unable to give an assurance that we won’t see scenes like we did last weekend. And frankly, you’ve been asleep at the wheel minister.

“You’ve been asleep at the wheel right throughout this process, only to appear last weekend.”

Mr Ryan, who admitted that mistakes had been made by the airport, called the scenes last weekend “inexcusable”.

He said he believed too many staff were made redundant by the airport when the pandemic struck and said that increasing staffing levels could not happen overnight.

But he defended the efforts of the Government in recent weeks, telling the Dail that he was in regular contact with DAA management.

He urged passengers to follow the advice from the airport and not to arrive too early for a flight.

Mr Ryan said he was “confident” people should be able to get through the airport with minimal difficulties in the days and weeks ahead.

“It will be managed. People will get through, I’m confident this weekend and through this summer period. And if it doesn’t, then we’ll have to take further measures.

“There’ll be nothing avoided in terms of making sure that Irish passengers don’t have that uncertainty, don’t have that stress.”

Mr Doherty rejected the assurances from the minister.

He said: “Assurances were given last week that we wouldn’t see the scenes, the chaotic scenes that happened at Dublin Airport, and yet they materialised.

“So as Minister for Transport, if we see those scenes again, are you going to hold those individuals at DAA accountable. Will they continue to be in their position?”

Mr Ryan, who also faced questions on the issue from Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy, told the Dail his team has been working for months with the DAA.

The minister said: “There was no inactivity from anyone. There was nobody shirking responsibility.

“We were active. We were engaged. Everyone was let down at the weekend and we would all accept responsibility for that, myself included.”

Ms Murphy focused her questions on the working arrangements for Dublin Airport staff, citing concerns over the use of flexible contracts.

“Is it any wonder the airport has a shortage of hundreds of staff when they offer those kinds of terms? That has to be part of the discussion.”

Mr Ryan said: “I think we do need to look at all this just-in-time contract arrangements for workers towards creating much more stable, much more certain working conditions, so that we hold on to people, so that we don’t have to employ new people, so that we can get the best working environment.

“Dublin Airport is, can and has been and will be that but I do think we need to look at the industry across a broader perspective.”

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