Opposition demands answers on explosives find

Wed, Jan 6, 2010, 00:00

OPPOSITION PARTIES have called on the Government to make a full statement on what was described as the “bizarre” discovery of explosive material in central Dublin yesterday.

A Garda investigation is under way after a Slovak man unwittingly carried explosives on a commercial flight to Ireland as part of an airport security exercise that went wrong.

The 49-year-old was one of eight people who had plastic explosives planted in their luggage last Saturday morning at Poprad-Tatry airport by the Slovakian security services. The covert planting of the material in the passengers’ bags was done to test the airport’s security screening.

Security checks at the airport uncovered seven of the packages. However, the explosives carried by the man flying to Dublin were not detected. He passed through all checks in Poprad-Tatry airport, took his flight to Dublin airport and then travelled to his apartment on Dorset Street in Dublin’s north inner city.

He unpacked his bag but the explosives had been concealed so well that he did not find them. The Slovakian authorities only realised yesterday that one batch of explosives was missing. They established the Dublin-bound passenger had not been detected.

The airport police at Poprad-Tatry airport contacted their counterparts in Dublin. Gardaí were then alerted.

Fine Gael’s justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan said the presence of a significant amount of explosives in the luggage of an unsuspecting passenger constituted a serious security breach at Dublin airport and required an immediate investigation.

“Why did the departments of justice and foreign affairs not know about the sting operation where explosives were planted and remained undetected for over three days? Why are the security systems at Dublin airport so lax as to allow a significant amount of explosives enter the country undetected?” asked Mr Flanagan.

Joe Costello, the Labour Party deputy for Dublin Central, said Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern should fully set out the circumstances that led to the explosive material being discovered in the flat on Dorset Street in his constituency.

“There are a number of aspects of this extraordinary affair that require immediate clarification,” he said. “This incident led to the closure of roads in the area, the evacuation of businesses and the lives and safety of residents could have been put at risk.”

Mr Costello said the people needed to know what protest the Government would make to the Slovak government over the incident and also said it raised serious questions about security at Dublin airport.

“We need to know how the explosive material was brought into the country and if the safety of other travellers was put at risk.

“If explosives can apparently be so easily smuggled into the country as part of a test exercise, then it presumably suggests that similar material could be smuggled in by those with more sinister motives,” he said.

Fine Gael Senator Paschal Donohoe described the find as “extremely worrying” and also demanded an explanation.

“The explosives find is a particularly bizarre case with the explosive substance brought into this country as part of a foreign test exercise,” he said.