Failure to address drone disruption issues at Dublin Airport ‘deeply alarming’

Minister says solution to recurring issue not as simple as appointing someone with ‘a laser gun and a laptop’

Recent disruptions at Dublin Airport caused by drones are ”serious acts of pre planned criminal activity” which are not being addressed with the seriousness they deserve, the director general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce has said.

In an interview on RTÉ's Saturday with Colm Ó Mongáin, John McGrane said the six disruptions to traffic at Dublin Airport so far this year due to drone activity represented an “extremely serious” development for the business community.

“It is deeply alarming that it is taking so long to sort out. Look the island of Ireland is a small island alongside some very big global markets. The key to how we haven’t ended up being cut off is the fact that we have got some excellent, in fact world best, trading links and transport links,” he said.

“The Dublin London air route, for instance, for many years has actually been the second busiest in the world. That reflects just how many business people and tourism people and indeed families depend on a reliable air transport service in and out of Dublin and our other airports.”


Mr McGrane said drone disruption at Dublin Airport was not just a matter of “modest inconvenience” to people who are flying and find themselves with a one hour delay.

“This is a much more about how this appears to our trading partners and our relationships in business that employ so many people in this island and beyond,” he said. “Businesspeople look at this as a serious act of pre-planned criminal activity and we are surprised that it is not being seen in exactly those terms.”

‘Fractured response’

Mr McGrane added that Government departments seemed to be “fractured from each other” when it came to addressing the issues surrounding drones disrupting air traffic.

Minister of State Joe O’Brien, a Green Party TD for Dublin Fingal, told the same programme that the Government was “extremely aware” of the seriousness of the situation.

He indicated that the Department of Transport has been assessing the legislative framework and the technology available for drone take drown systems since the problems first started to emerge.

“This didn’t just start in the last week or so. Minister (for Transport Eamon) Ryan is taking the initiative to accelerate that now. There is a memo being developed over the weekend that will accelerate the process of actually ascertaining if we need additional legislation to go forward with the take down system,” he said.

“It is not like as some people have intimated over the last 48 hours that you can have a guy in with a laser gun and a laptop and its all sorted. That is not the way this is done.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin said it was “appalling that people would be engaging in drone activity in and around Dublin Airport or any airport for that matter”.

“That’s very dangerous and obviously the Minister is bringing forward legislation this week with a view to clarifying and sorting out the lines of responsibility in terms of the capacity to disable drones and the authority in aviation terms to be able to do that,” he told reporters in Tralee on Saturday.

Asked about Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary’s suggestion that Mr Ryan should resign over the drone issues, Mr Martin said it is “open to anyone to go before the people and get elected and become a minister and seek to sort things out”.

Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) president Captain Evan Cullen recently revealed that the group raised major concerns about drones with all the relevant aviation sector stakeholders as far back as 2017 only to receive a “very poor response”.

“A drone can take out a jet engine in a matter of seconds. It can also penetrate the windscreen of a cock pit and therefore kill the pilots while in flight. They pose a real threat. They are not toys,” he said in an interview with RTÉ radio.

He said aviation authorities had sat on their hands time and time again when it came to the issue and this is “why we are now experiencing the kind of threats out of Dublin Airport that we should have addressed years ago”.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times