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28th Jun 2022

Defence Forces to be used at Dublin Airport only in event of Covid outbreak

Dave Hanratty

The Dublin Airport Authority is treating the measure as an emergency last resort scenario.

Following news on Tuesday afternoon that the Defence Forces are on standby for deployment at Dublin Airport to assist with ongoing management issues, the Dublin Airport Authority (daa) has moved to provide quick clarification on the matter.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan had previously said that the army could be called in to combat delays at the airport should measures already in place to deal with issues regarding queuing and overcrowding no longer prove adequate.

In a statement on Tuesday, Defence Minister Simon Coveney said that Ryan had submitted the request, which would see Defence Forces members prepare to assist the daa with the provision of aviation security duties.

Daa management, however, has sounded a note of caution on proceedings, underlining that the Defence Forces will only be required in the event of a Covid-fuelled emergency situation.

A statement from daa reiterates the body’s “confidence in its current plan”, pointing to a statistic of 93% of passengers spending 45 minutes or less queuing to the airport’s security screening areas, with 77% queuing for 30 minutes or less.

Last weekend, which saw 13 Aer Lingus flights to and from Dublin cancelled due to an outbreak of Covid amongst airline staff – and a subsequent apology issued by Aer Lingus – was, according to the daa, the busiest few days the airport has experienced so far in 2022.

91% of the 50,000 to 55,000 passengers that departed the airport each day cleared security in less than 45 minutes, according to a daa spokesperson.

Despite this, the ‘bring in the army’ conversation continues. Daa has outlined to Government that a “prudent contingency” in the form of preparing initial steps to facilitate the training of Defence Forces personnel should be put in place.

Daa spokesperson Graeme McQueen notes that such a deployment should only occur “in the event that significant Covid-19 related absences due to illness and infection affected daa’s own security team”.

“Any deployment of Defence Forces personnel would only be triggered as a second phase, and only if ultimately required due to a Covid-19 outbreak,” McQueen adds.

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Minister Coveney referred to any potential Defence Forces involvement as a “distinct piece of work” that, if called upon, will represent a temporary measure.

“While I recognise that the role of the Defence Forces is not normally to assist in the provision of services for a commercial airport, I have agreed to this request on a clear assurance that this is a distinct piece of work, provided in extreme circumstances, as a short-term emergency related contingency action and is in direct response to a letter from daa management to the Minister for Transport,” he said.

“The request is clearly defined in terms of the role and timeline, lasting no more than six weeks, in non-public facing duties. Members of our Defence Forces will undergo an immediate period of training and stand ready to assist if the need arises.

“However, this support will be stood down in August when the busy holiday period has passed.”

Featured Imagery via Leah Farrell /

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