Tánaiste signs off on plans to buy new Government jet

Ministers can’t be ‘going around in rickshaws’, Fianna Fáil TD tells Dáil

The Tánaiste has signed off on a plan to buy a new Government jet. Micheál Martin, who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, told the Dáil on Thursday a team is being established and they will decide whether to purchase either a new or second-hand jet.

Mr Martin was responding to questions from Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe who said the Government had bought a Learjet LJ45 for €8 million in 2004 and that it was now “in a pretty poor state of repair and that officials in the Department have recommended that it be replaced”.

The Clare TD said the Mexican Government used the very same jet and that it was involved in a major plane crash above Mexico city in 2008, in which nine passengers were killed, including the Mexican interior minister, as well as seven people on the ground.

Mr Martin said a ministerial air travel review group drafted a report detailing the strategic and financial impact of purchasing a new plane.


He said these reports were supplemented with additional market research on suitable options for a second-hand aircraft.

“I have reviewed the various strands of work conducted to date and have approved now the recommendation made by my officials,” he said.

“Ultimately, the State needs a replacement aircraft that provides a broad utility role, including strategic reach in crisis situations and medical evacuation, as well as ministerial air transport. My officials will now move to progress to procurement phase.

“A project team is currently being established and planning for a procurement competition for replacement capability will commence shortly. The procurement will consider both new and second-hand replacement capability. The outcome of any procurement competition will be subject to further deliberation and consideration in line with the public spending code.”

The Fianna Fáil leader said the incident referenced by Mr Crowe was “a shocking crash and a shocking loss of life”. “There have been issues with the Learjet, no point in saying otherwise,” he added.

“There have been serious issues with it. I am not prepared to stand over it. In my view, a replacement jet is required.”

The Tánaiste said the jet would be used to help assist Irish citizens who may be needed to be evacuated quickly overseas as well for medical transport and ministerial obligations.

Mr Crowe said the move was important for Government purposes as well as for humanitarian missions and medical evacuations.

“We can’t expect members of the Government to be going around in rickshaws and we can’t just magic children who are overseas or Irish people who need to be repatriated home,” he said.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times