Shane Ross appears to be in no rush to fill vacancies on board of Irish Aviation Authority

Cantillon: With challenges such as Brexit looming, why the lack of progress in critical area?

Like his predecessors, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross says that aviation is critical to the Republic. Photograph: Alan Betson

Like his predecessors, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross says that aviation is critical to the Republic. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

If a plc board was left with five out of a full complement of nine members, even normally docile corporate shareholders would begin to ask questions.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is in just such a position. Its newly-appointed chairman designate, Michael McGrail, actually brings the number on the board to five, but there are still four vacancies. The board lost one member, Geoffrey O’Byrne-White, when he died suddenly in June. But even allowing for that very sad loss, it was already depleted.

McGrail, appointed this month and not responsible for the problem, told an Oireachtas committee that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has assured him the vacancies would be filled quickly.

The IAA is responsible for aviation safety and air navigation. It ensures that the aircraft in which we fly are safe and that the airlines keep them that way. Last year it guided 1.13 million flights through our airspace and in and out of our airports. Next year, it could play a key role if aviation is caught in the Brexit fallout. It needs a full board with the right mix of expertise.

This is one of several things under the charge of Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, that appear to be left hanging. There are plans to split the IAA, leaving air traffic control on its own and moving safety to the remit of the Commission for Aviation Regulation, but there is no sign yet of the legislation needed for this.

On a related issue, Ross or his department has yet to publish the proposed law needed to establish a noise regulator for Dublin Airport needed if its proposed new runway is to function. Ross has nominated Fingal County Council but the paperwork remains uncompleted.

Like his predecessors, the minister says that aviation is critical to the Republic.With challenges such as Brexit looming, that should be truer than ever. So why the lack of progress on resolving difficulties affecting the industry that are within Ross’s control?

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