Defence Forces on standby at Dublin Airport to ‘avoid reputational damage’, Dáil hears

Some 130 Defence Forces personnel set to be trained and available to support operations at the airport

The Defence Forces are “on standby” from this week at Dublin Airport to protect passengers’ travel arrangements over the summer period and to avoid “reputational damage” to Ireland’s aviation sector, the Dáil has heard.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said, if deployed, members of the Defence Forces would be involved in specific, non-public-facing roles, relieving DAA staff for security and screening duties in the main terminals.

“In the event of significant staff shortages due to Covid,-19 it is envisaged that the Defence Forces personnel could be deployed to operate the external gate posts into the security-restricted area of Dublin Airport, thereby potentially freeing up approximately 100 staff who could then be deployed in the main terminals,” Ms Naughton said.

“The exact numbers of Defence Force personnel who will be trained and available to undertake these roles is being finalised and is expected to be about 130 personnel.”

Ms Naughton said the decision to place the Defence Forces on standby came following a proposal from the DAA due to the risk of the resurgence of Covid-19 and the knock-on effect on staff and operations “at this exceptionally busy time”.

Ms Naughton was responding to People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy who said there had been “complete chaos” at Dublin Airport over recent months.

“That chaos flows directly from the actions of the management of Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, two years ago,” Mr Murphy said.

“They chose to slash staff numbers, drive wages and conditions down, taking advantage of the pandemic to drive through a shock doctrine. That is what they did.

“We have been warning about this from the moment that it happened, but the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan would not listen.

“The Minister knew that DAA, while receiving huge amounts of money in public funding during the pandemic, was using the pandemic as an excuse to cut directly employed, unionised workers and replace them with workers on low wages and poor contracts into the future. The Government allowed the DAA to get away with that.”

The Dublin South West TD said the Government’s answer now was to send in the army, which was “papering over the problems that are a consequence of DAA’s decisions”.

“It is a short-term approach that could temporarily deal with the issues but at the cost of long-term problems,” Mr Murphy said.

“The issue is the poor wages and conditions offered by DAA and the need to have more directly-employed, full-time security staff.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times