Government ‘procrastination’ on reopening travel must end – Ialpa

Airline pilots to take rapid antigen tests prior to demonstration at Government Buildings

Thousands of aviation workers face permanent unemployment if Government “procrastination” on reopening travel does not end, pilots will warn on Monday.

Pressure is increasing on the Government ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday where proposals to begin reopening the State to travel following 14 months of restrictions will be discussed.

The Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) says Government “procrastination on plans for a return of international air travel risks putting thousands of people in Ireland’s aviation sector permanently out of work”.

Hundreds of pilots will take part in a demonstration on Monday ahead of an Ialpa delegation travelling to Government Buildings where the union's president, Capt Evan Cullen, will submit a plan for safe reopening to Cabinet.


A pilots' group, Restore Irish Aviation, demonstrated outside Leinster House at the weekend, days after Aer Lingus announced the closure of its Shannon base with the potential loss of 126 jobs.

Capt Cullen said all pilots attending Monday’s demonstration would undergo rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 on arrival at the venue.

Faster screening

The Government continues to favour slower, more expensive PCR tests for travel, despite a report from a group headed by Science Foundation Ireland chief Prof Mark Ferguson recommending the use of the faster screening system.

Capt Cullen accused the Government of ignoring its own report. “This unscientific approach to public health policy serves us all poorly,” he argued.

Medical professionals would oversee antigen tests on pilots on Monday to demonstrate the system’s effectiveness and the role it can play in lifting restrictions, he said.

Prof Ferguson urged the Government to trial antigen testing on flights when he appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications Networks this month.

Ialpa is proposing that the Government immediately harmonise the common travel area between the Republic and the UK. The pilots’ union also wants immediate full implementation of the proposed EU digital green certificates designed to allow free movement in the bloc.

Brussels is allowing member states a six-week period from June to get their systems in place. The Government has said the Republic's certificates will be ready by the end of July or early August.

Ialpa maintains that the IT infrastructure is ready to facilitate immediate adoption and argues that there is no reason to delay.

Hotel quarantine

The union also wants the Government to immediately end the two-week mandatory hotel quarantine imposed on travellers from the US, whose vaccination programme is well advanced.

Ialpa argues that the Republic should then put in a place a similar system to the EU certificates to facilitate travel with the US.

Capt Cullen pointed out that given the open border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, it was pointless to have artificial barriers in the common travel area.

“Secondly, freedom of movement within the EU is an enshrined fundamental right of EU citizens,” he said.

“The digital green certificate is a clear pathway to restore this freedom and Ireland should be a leader in this regard, not an outlier.”

The union leader also pointed out that the US was an important economic partner and key tourist market.

“Ialpa are calling on the Government to implement our proposals which will enable Irish aviation workers to get safely back to work and the Irish people to safely travel,” he said.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas