Priority Questions

Aviation Industry Regulations

Robert Troy

Question:

19. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he completed the statutory instrument giving authority to the Irish Aviation Authority for the control of noise levels at Dublin Airport; the consultation he had when preparing this; and when he will publish the statutory instrument. [14446/17]

Before beginning, I ask for the Leas-Cheann Comhairle’s forbearance so we can express our sympathies to the family of the late Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who tragically lost her life on Rescue 116 last week. We think of the families of the remaining crew, Captain Mark Duffy, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winch man Ciarán Smith. It is fair to say that across all political divides, our thoughts and prayers are with the families. These are invaluable services and I think of those people today. I understand the wreckage has been found in the past hour and I hope and pray the bodies of the missing crew members will be located.

My first question relates to the statutory instrument that gives authority to the IAA for the control of noise levels at Dublin Airport. When was it completed and what level of consultation did the Minister have with the various stakeholders? When will the statutory instrument be published?

There is a question about the Coast Guard and I will reciprocate the Deputy’s sincere comments, with the Leas-Cheann Comhairle’s indulgence, when the question arises. I echo the Deputy’s comments in the meantime and it is of course a very sad day for the nation and people of all political parties. Sympathies must go to the families.

I thank Deputy Troy for putting this question. The statutory instrument has not been completed. EU Regulation No. 598/2014 entered into force in June 2016 and is directly applicable in the State. Key stakeholders were consulted in 2012 on the draft of this regulation proposed by the European Commission for the purposes of informing Ireland’s negotiating position in the European Union legislative process. The regulation represents a shift in responsibility for aircraft noise from the airport operator to a separate, independent statutory entity or competent authority that will be required to oversee the delivery of the new, more prescriptive approach to aircraft noise management. As the Deputy is aware, I have already announced that I am appointing the IAA as the competent authority to deal with aircraft noise management at Dublin Airport.

Officials in my Department are currently engaged with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in order to finalise the details of the statutory instrument that will transpose EU Regulation 598/2014. Whereas I fully recognise and regret that the legislative requirements to give full effect to this regulation have been delayed, I reassure the Deputy that the reason for the delay is to ensure that the introduction of the new noise regulatory regime is robust and fit for purpose. Before any decision is taken on noise-related operating restrictions at Dublin Airport, consultation will be undertaken by the competent authority with all interested parties. My Department has during the course of the drafting process consulted the IAA and the DAA, given their key interests as prospective competent authority and sole regulated entity. The draft statutory instrument is nearing completion and I expect to be in a position to sign off on this important piece of legislation in the coming weeks.

The reply is similar to one given to a previous question, that the Minister expects to be in a position to do something in the coming weeks. Will the Minister clarify when are "the coming weeks" and has he a timeline set for when it will be completed? Who are the key stakeholders which have been engaged with? Have members of the residential community in the area been consulted?

The Minister talks about capacity at Dublin Airport. In July last, the Minister and the junior Minister met a lobby group on the operation of a private terminal at Dublin Airport. In September, the Minister announced, perhaps as a consequence of meeting that lobby group, that he would seek tenders for how a third terminal would operate at Dublin Airport. That tender document went out in November and recently, at an aviation group meeting, the Minister stated he could foresee how that tender would come back. The Minister clearly has a vision of how the third terminal will operate at Dublin Airport but I would suggest that until such time as we get the second runway into operation at Dublin Airport, it will not be able to grow and expand-----

Go raibh maith agat.

-----to meet the capacity.

This legislation and the statutory instrument are long overdue. The Minister has promised it for a number of months. Perhaps he could be more definite on when it will be implemented.

I ask Members and the Minister to keep an eye on the clock. I do not want to have to intervene all the time to give those whose questions are further down the list an opportunity. The Minister has one minute.

There are a lot of questions to answer. The Deputy correctly stated the reply is similar to that on the previous occasion. This is a complex statutory instrument. We do not know at this stage whether there will necessarily be primary legislation but I suspect there will be. As the Deputy will be aware, it is extremely important it is robust and will not be challenged. It is important legislation. It is with the Attorney General and is expected shortly. Indeed, I got a draft of the secondary instrument earlier this week. It is fairly immediate but I do not want to give a hostage to fortune by saying it will be next week or the week after. Let me assure the Deputy that it is a matter of great urgency. He would be the first person to criticise me, if I rushed it through and if it was not done properly. The pressure is certainly on that office.

On the issue of the visit I had from a private group, I do not think my junior Minister was present but he is here and can tell us. If Deputy Troy is referring to the McEvaddy group, it looked for a meeting and I said "Yes", but a third terminal was not necessarily on the agenda. I am aware of its interest in that but it wanted to talk to me about aviation in general, and that was absolutely fine.

On the issue of the third terminal, I am seeking consultants to look at capacity.

I am sorry. The Minister will have to tailor his answers. That was two minutes.

I will answer that in my next contribution, with this next bit as well.

I was merely referring to an article in the Sunday newspapers resulting from a freedom of information request that stated the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, was present. It seems somewhat coincidental that the Minister met the group advocating a private terminal at Dublin Airport and, two months later, announces he is going out tender to seek expressions of interest. Perhaps it is coincidental but I take the Minister's word on that. I certainly hope he will not be influenced by lobbyists.

I raise the issue of the capacity at Dublin Airport, which is now stretched beyond capacity. One of the big restrictions is the need for construction and implementation of the second runway. This is an important instrument. The Minister correctly states it is important that he gets it right. It is important it is robust and that the various stakeholders have their opinions heard. That being said, the Minister promised during the past number of Question Times that it was imminent but it has not been forthcoming. The Minister still cannot confirm to the House whether or not primary legislation is required, and I wonder why. Surely he needs to have a deadline date when he can indicate to the House when this instrument will be ready and whether or not primary legislation is required.

I will not give the Deputy a deadline date but it is a matter of urgency. I have made that quite clear. That question was repeated. It is a matter of urgency but I will not say it will be next week when there are complex legal problems involved. Deputy Troy can be assured I will be putting pressure on all parties involved to get this to us quickly. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, confirmed to me that he was not present at the meeting Deputy Troy referred to. The media report, if it stated he was present, was wrong.

On the issue of the third terminal and capacity, what we will do is have a capacity review. It is important to hold a capacity review because the airport is bursting at the seams. Included in that capacity review - it is not the sole reason for it - is a debate about whether there should be a third terminal, which is appropriate, and included in that is the debate about whether that third terminal should be private or public, and the merits of that. The reason I have asked for this review is that a recommendation can be made on that by an independent group. We will look at it at that stage. I have personal views on it but we will undoubtedly hear the views of someone who is independent and expert. That is why it is being set up. I could have merely stated I want to do it but I will not do that. I want to hear the arguments and views of independent consultants on the third terminal.

Road Tolls

Imelda Munster

Question:

20. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on his Department's policy regarding slip road tolls on the outskirts of towns, in view of the detrimental effect they have on investment, local economies and tourism in towns; his plans to review slip road tolls or if he will consider same; if he will consider reviewing current contracts, especially in Drogheda in view of its position as a Border town as Britain prepares to leave the EU; if he met Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, on the matter as he had indicated in Dáil Éireann on 19 July 2016; the details of the outcome of raising this issue at that meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14442/17]

I want to know the Minister's views on his Department's policy regarding slip road tolls on the outskirts of towns, in view of the detrimental effect they have on investment, tourism and the local economy. I want to know if he plans to review slip road tolls or if he will consider same, if he will consider reviewing the current contracts, especially in Drogheda in view of its position as a Border town as Britain prepares to leave the EU, if he met Transport Infrastructure Ireland, as he committed to do in July 2016, the details of the outcome of him raising this issue at that meeting and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I thank Deputy Munster for this question, which is on the same lines as questions the Deputy has been following up over a period of time.

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in regard to the national roads programme. The planning, design and operation of individual roads is a matter for TII under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Furthermore, the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll by-laws and to enter into agreements relating to tolls on national roads is vested in TII. The planning and construction of the M1, associated slip roads and contractual arrangements relating to tolls are, therefore, matters for TII.

I undertook, in response to the Deputy's question on 19 July 2016, to raise the issue at a meeting with TII. This took place in early August 2016. TII subsequently briefed my Department on the 2002 toll scheme and the findings of a 2012 study of the implications of the removal of the tolls at the north-facing slip roads at M1 Junction 9. Details of TII's briefing were forwarded to the Deputy in October 2016. I understand that TII has also outlined the conclusions of the 2012 study to the Deputy in response to recent questions.

In the 2012 study, two scenarios were considered. The first scenario involved removing ramp tolls only while the second scenario involved removing ramp tolls and increasing the mainline toll. The study concluded that significant levels of additional traffic would divert to local routes such as the R152 through Duleek and the R132 through Julianstown with thousands more vehicles per day affecting the safety, quality of life and commercial viability of these communities.

In addition, both scenarios would have substantial financial implications because TII would be contractually required to compensate the PPP company for losses arising out of any change. Under the first scenario, it was estimated that between €6 million and €7 million would have to be paid to the PPP company in the first year, increasing each year to 2034.  Under the second scenario, given the higher rates of diversion off the M1, it was estimated that mainline tolls would have to be increased by between 40% and 60%.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

It is important to point out that the aim of the Donore ramp toll plazas was to mitigate possible "rat-running" with adverse impacts on local communities.  In response to concerns expressed about the possible impact on business in Drogheda, the approved toll scheme allows vehicles to exit the motorway, having paid a toll, and re-enter within three hours, with no further charge.  At the same time, I note that removing congestion and heavy traffic often has a beneficial effect on investment, local economies and tourism in towns.

As I said to the Minister before, the slip road tolls are, in effect, a tax on people living, working, shopping and visiting Drogheda. It is the only town in Ireland with a toll. It is a tax on entering and exiting the town. I cannot emphasise enough the adverse effects on local businesses, investment, tourism and day-to-day life for people living in Drogheda and the surrounding areas and I do not think the Minister is getting it. One has to pay a toll to get from one side of the town to the other and from one retail park to another. If one is dropping children to primary and secondary school, one has to go through the toll. To say it has added to the serious congestion is an understatement. It has ground traffic in Drogheda to a halt. Why would any investor comparing Drogheda with other towns seek to invest there knowing one has to pay a toll to get from one side of it to the other? The Minister has given a commitment to a meeting but did he just accept TII's response, the makey-up figures it gave him on the cost of removing the slip road tolls and the excuses as to why they should remain in place? Is he going to request TII to find a way to remove the tolls? He is the Minister in charge and the TII comes under the Roads Acts.

I understand the reasons Deputy Munster is saying this - it is her constituency and her constituents obviously feel this is unfair to them. I do not accept that the figures are made up. I accept the fact that they may be subjective and not entirely and totally accurate in circumstances where one cannot measure it down to the last lorry or car, but the Deputy must accept that a contract has been made by the TII with the PPP that is binding until 2034, which is a long time. If the contract is breached by the removal of the tolls on the slip roads, compensation will obviously have to be made. The TII says it is between €6 million and €7 million to give a range, but it is obvious that it is a very substantial amount of money. I am not, nor should I be, in the business of going in to direct the TII on how to manage an individual toll on an individual road. It would be absurd if a Minister were to do that. As the Deputy knows, if lorries pay the toll and do not stay more than three hours, they get the toll money back.

I am blue in the face from outlining to the Minister the adverse effects the toll is having on the town of Drogheda. In the response I received from TII, it said it had commissioned a bespoke, made-to-order set of origin-to-destination surveys in Drogheda to project the cost of the impact of removing the slip road tolls in the town. This was one methodology and calculation on one slip road purely for Drogheda and it was not applied anywhere else in the world. To say that is a basis for TII's argument is incredible. It is ridiculous and it is invented. Coming up with figures which have never been used anywhere else means it is impossible to compare them against anything else. The Minister cannot justify those figures or the excuse and neither can the TII. Given that this was a purposely commissioned study solely for Drogheda and never calculated against anything anywhere across the world, there is no basis to it whatsoever. As I said at the start, it is an excuse. Is the Minister going to go along with it? The TII cannot justify it, the Minister cannot justify it and it would not stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever. A figure was pulled out of the air and is being used to justify this. Is the Minister going to stand over it given the adverse effects on Drogheda, its people and the surrounding areas?

If the Deputy wishes to say the TII's figures are wrong, I would like her to produce evidence to the contrary. I would like her to produce conflicting figures.

I have asked-----

The Deputy said they are wrong, makey-up figures. She may be right but there is no evidence for it whatsoever. I assume TII, which is employed to do this sort of work, has an expertise in tolling and counting the number of cars and lorries that go through. The Deputy has produced no evidence whatsoever that it is incorrect.

I requested evidence.

The Minister without interruption.

I am not going to interfere with a single toll in a single place because that is not my role as Minister. It is the TII's role. I understand the reasons the Deputy raises the matter, but I note that the aim of the Donore ramp toll plazas was to help the local communities by mitigating possible rat-running with adverse impacts on them. In response to concerns expressed about the possible impact on business in Drogheda, the approved toll scheme allows vehicles to exit the motorway having paid a toll and to re-enter within three hours with no further charge. At the same time, I note that removing congestion and heavy traffic often has a beneficial effect on investment, local economies and tourism in towns like Drogheda.

Bus Éireann

Robert Troy

Question:

21. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the level of engagement he has had with the management of Bus Éireann regarding its restructuring plan. [14447/17]

The financial challenges facing Bus Éireann have been known to the Minister and his predecessor for in excess of 16 months, going back to January 2016. We are now told that we face insolvency in Bus Éireann within a matter of weeks. What level of engagement has the Minister had with the board and management of Bus Éireann in the past number of weeks on the proposed restructuring plan?

I share the Deputy's concern about this particular problem, which is still going on as we speak and remains unresolved. As I have previously indicated to the Deputy, during the course of 2016 Bus Éireann management worked on developing a business plan to address the loss making situation in its commercial Expressway business. Several drafts of Bus Éireann's proposals were presented to my Department and NewERA, my Department's financial advisers, and discussed. These discussions highlighted some shortcomings that existed in the draft proposals as presented. Previously, I informed the Deputy that these shortcomings included issues such as the commercial rationale, financing, implementation, sensitivity, risk analysis and the need to consider both state aid and competition law interactions. In September 2016, the board of the company commissioned Grant Thornton to review the proposals as previously developed by the company. Unsurprisingly, that review highlighted the same shortcomings identified in my own Department's analysis. No doubt the Deputy's own review of the Grant Thornton report has led him to a similar conclusion.

Bus Éireann is continuing work to develop a new plan to address the company's loss making situation and restore it to a sustainable future. As clearly stated in the code of practice for the governance of State bodies, the preparation of strategic plans and-or business plans are the responsibility of the board of a State-owned company. In line with normal good corporate governance, draft strategic and business plans are discussed with Departments and observations are provided. As I have just mentioned, this is exactly the type of interaction which has taken place between my Department and Bus Éireann. My Department has kept me fully informed at all times as this work has developed. I have met with the chairman of the company on a number of occasions throughout 2016 and 2017 and have been updated personally on relevant developments.

Has the Minister seen the plan the board is discussing today and which it intends to implement unilaterally from next week? Previously, the Minister said he was a party and had a number of drafts referred to him, but has he seen the proposed plan the board wishes to implement in the next number of days? Has he been consulted on the implementation of that plan without the agreement of the unions? Does he agree with the implementation of that plan without having achieved consultation with the unions?

Let me answer that question as fully as I possibly can for the Deputy with regard to implementation of the plan without the agreement of the unions. It is not for me to intervene between management and unions in this particular dispute, and I certainly would not be intervening to approve or disapprove of the plan proceeding. I have made it absolutely clear that my intention during the dispute is to keep as far away from it as possible and to leave it to the two parties involved. I would not be doing anything which would stand in the way of that plan or intervening in respect of that plan. I urge the management and unions to get down to talks as fast as possible at the Workplace Relations Commission or in the Labour Court and to use the institutions of the State to resolve this dispute. It is not up to me to take sides, it is up to them to resolve the industrial relations problems.

Why are the plans referred to the Minister and the Department if he does not need to approve them? Does he approve of the restructuring plans being put forward, "Yes" or "No"? What is the Minister's opinion on the board and management of Bus Éireann seeking legal advice on reckless trading? If the plan is not implemented, I am told that the board and directors could be held up for reckless trading. Surely, as the main shareholder in a semi-State body, the Minister has responsibility if he feels a company is trading recklessly. He has abdicated his responsibilities in respect of this matter. Total inaction in recent months on the part of the Minister and the Department - this stretches back years if the Minister's predecessor's time in office is included - has led us to a situation where we are at the edge of the cliff. The unions and the workers were not alone in contributing to the huge deficit in Bus Éireann. As the Minister will acknowledge, the company requires structural reform and he, the NTA and the various stakeholders have a role to play in that regard.

I agree with much of what Deputy Troy said at the end. If structural reform is necessary, certainly the NTA, I, as Minister, the workforce, the management and others will have a serious role to play. I agree with that absolutely.

It will be the shareholders' duty to get involved in structural reform, if that is necessary, but not to get involved in an industrial relations dispute. I have made it quite clear to Deputy Troy and others in the House many times that once the dispute-----

Will the Minister answer the question on reckless trading?

If I could, without interruption, Deputy Troy, please.

The Minister can talk down the clock without answering the question.

Once the dispute is ended, I will be very happy to engage in talks with any of the stakeholders involved to discuss the very issues the Deputy wants me to discuss, but not before that and not under the threat of industrial action.

On the reckless trading issue, I am absolutely assured, not just by its public statements but by my conversations with it, that the company is very conscious of its duties as regards reckless trading and it has repeated that publicly many times in recent weeks also.

Railway Stations

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

22. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will ensure that there are no changes made within Iarnród Éireann that will result in the removal of staff from DART stations throughout Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14409/17]

Staff are being progressively eliminated from our DART stations. We have it on good authority there are plans to remove staff altogether from DART stations including those at Sandycove and Glasthule, Grand Canal Dock and Lansdowne Road and then move on to de-staff other stations afterwards. DART staff provide absolutely vital health and safety protection, line safety protection, access for people with disabilities and the elderly and passive surveillance against anti-social behaviour and are responsible for a range of measures that, if removed, would seriously compromise access and safety in our DART stations. I am looking for a commitment to the effect that the Minister will tell Iarnród Éireann to abandon plans to de-staff our DART stations.

The Deputy is presumably aware that issues such as staffing levels at train stations are operational matters for Iarnród Éireann and are not matters in respect of which I have any statutory function. I am, however, informed by Iarnród Éireann that it has not introduced staffing changes at DART stations but that the issue of station staffing is under review in response to changed customer behaviour.

The company's priorities in determining staffing levels at stations are: to ensure that busier stations are manned at all times; to provide more flexible station resourcing to respond to customer demand and improve response for customers requiring assistance, ensuring a balanced coverage of stations across the network; working with the live monitored CCTV system and contracted private security resources and liaising with the Garda to ensure a safe and secure environment; and working with its revenue protection unit to ensure revenue is protected.

Specifically for customers requiring assistance, Iarnród Éireann plans to confirm new pilot arrangements for mobility-impaired customers shortly that will dramatically reduce the current advance notification period and ensure a better response when customers requiring assistance cannot give notice. These new arrangements are being designed following extensive customer research and liaison with the company's disability users group. I am informed that the company will shortly be commencing recruitment for temporary employees to assist with customer service duties throughout the greater Dublin area during the busy summer months.

I believe I have a duty to ensure that accessibility is a priority, particularly as there is a national priority which extends certainly to stations, buses, trains and elsewhere. However, I cannot intervene in specific stations or staffing difficulties.

It is very disappointing the Minister read - word for word - from the letter I received in response from David Franks, the CEO of CIE, and it typifies what is going on. I do not want to hear the propaganda of Iarnród Éireann as it axes staff and compromises health and safety. If there are no staff in certain DART stations, particularly at night, older and disabled people will not go to those stations. There will not be staff on site to help people with wheelchairs to get onto trains. There will not be people to prevent suicide attempts, and I will give the Minister an example. At Salthill and Monkstown DART station last year, somebody attempted suicide but because there were staff there the trains were stopped and the suicide was prevented. Later that night, at Killiney DART station, the life of somebody who threw themselves in front of a train was lost because staff had been removed. There have been a number of attacks around Shankill DART station because staff have been removed at night. To say it is not the Minister's responsibility to ensure safety and access for elderly people and people with disabilities, to ensure line safety and to ensure equality of access to DART stations is, frankly, disgraceful. I want a better response and I want an assurance we will continue to have staff to ensure safety and access.

I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett. I did not read word for word from David Franks's letter. I have not seen David Franks's letter, so, wrong.

I will give it to the Minister.

Yes, but I did not read word for word from it.

It is word for word-----

I have not seen it-----

-----David Franks's letter to me.

-----and seeing as some of it came out my own head it is unlikely. Perhaps some of it is stuff which has come from inquiries to the company and I accept that.

I wish to make the Deputy an offer. If he has evidence of these things happening in those stations and if he has not received a satisfactory response to representations which, presumably, he has made about all of those incidents he mentioned, I would be more than happy, in the name of natural and human justice, to make representations as well to Iarnród Éireann and anybody else and ask them what has happened. If the Deputy has the evidence for the things he has said - I do not doubt him for one second - I will deal with it because these are important and serious matters. If incidents are happening because there are no staff at stations, which would be contrary to Iarnród Éireann's assurance to me that it is not de-staffing them, I will ask the company to respond to me and I will respond to the Deputy in turn in respect of these serious matters

Let me assure the Minister that de-staffing is taking place. Killiney has lost its staff.

There is nobody there at night and it is seriously compromising access and safety. People in wheelchairs cannot get on the train if there is not somebody there to put out a ramp. They already have to give huge amounts of notice to get on the train.

Pat in the Sandycove station told me this Saturday that he was only on at 6.30 p.m. because of the rugby match, and there were otherwise no staff on duty after 4 p.m. Somebody arrived in a wheelchair on spec at 6.30 p.m., needing to get back to Clontarf by 10.30 p.m. That person was only able to get on the train because Pat was there and able to arrange for staff at the other end in Clontarf to be there for that person in the wheelchair to get off. That person would have been stranded in the wheelchair with no access to the DART if Pat was not there, and he was there only because of the exceptional circumstance of the rugby match. That is the reality. There is no access if there are no staff. I met a member of our own staff here, a woman, who gets off at Seapoint, and she said that she would not go to Seapoint station at night if there was not a member of staff there, because there is a long, dark alleyway. Attacks have increased around Shankill since staff were removed at night. This is an imperative issue and I want the Minister to intervene to ensure we have the staff to ensure equality, access and a community service provided by our DART staff.

I will reiterate what I presume is an offer which the Deputy will take up.

It is an offer which the Deputy will take up. Provide me with the facts, with the incidents and I will make representations and see how this gels with the statement that we should not introduce staffing changes at DART stations. That is important. I have to respond to it in a necessary way if it is having resultant effects and consequences, as the Deputy outlined. I have no hesitation about that. There has been a dramatic change in other ways, in customers' purchasing preferences and there has been changed customer behaviour. Where there is changed customer behaviour, it will result in prepaid ticketing and ticket vending machines being used increasingly, including Leap card and monthly and annual season tickets being used. If there is more automation and more technology being used, fewer staff will be used in certain circumstances. If it is leading to less protection-----

-----and situations where disabled people or people who are immobilised in other ways are not being properly protected or looked after, that is a matter which I will address in a general way. Please do not ask me to address individual stations. That is not a ministerial job. That is a job for the DART.

Aviation Industry

Clare Daly

Question:

23. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide for the involvement of a community representative (details supplied) in relation to the implementation of EU Regulation 598/2014, in advance of its implementation; and if he has had discussions on this matter or on the actions by the DAA to lift the An Bord Pleanála restrictions on night flights, in recent months. [14445/17]

This question relates to the Minister's decision to place the Irish Aviation Authority as the competent authority to transcribe EU Regulation 598/2014, on airport noise. I wonder, on foot of a discussion that we had at the last Minister's questions, whether the Minister has given any further consideration to the possibility of residents, particularly a representative of the Dublin Airport Stakeholders Forum, being involved in that process upfront and early on, and whether he has had any recent discussions with the DAA on that and where we are with it.

I thank the Deputy for her question on behalf of the residents and the forum group.

I wish to ensure that there are robust consultation requirements with all key stakeholders, including local residents, as I have indicated previously. As I mentioned in my response to Priority Question No. 1, officials in my Department are currently finalising the legislation to give full effect to Regulation 598/2014.

Before any decisions are made about aircraft noise management, there will be an opportunity for all stakeholders to have their views taken into consideration by the competent authority to be appointed in accordance with the regulation. It is proposed that the statutory instrument will outline requirements concerning the collaborative working arrangements to apply between the competent authority and the various statutory bodies that have roles and expertise related to noise management. In so far as public consultation arrangements are concerned, the competent authority will also be required to organise consultation processes to secure the views of all concerned stakeholders, including from local residents and businesses.

While I have not had discussions on these issues in recent months other than with my officials, the Deputy will be aware that I held a number of meetings with local resident groups late last year. The Dublin Airport Authority also continues to provide information on noise to local communities. Most recently, it arranged a presentation by experts Bickerdike Allen Partners to the Dublin Airport environmental working group on 15 March regarding noise data from the permanent noise monitoring terminals in the vicinity of the airport. The longitudinal noise data analysis requested at the St. Margaret's Community Liaison Group is currently being finalised and will be presented at the next meeting of that forum, which is scheduled for 30 March.

On foot of Deputy Daly's request, I will happily arrange a meeting with a community representative from the forum group and the IAA in the coming weeks to discuss the upcoming implementation of EU Regulation 598/2014.

I thank the Minister for his response. I do not mean to be disrespectful, but we are not any the wiser from the point of view that there still is not clarity about whether the changes are going to be brought in solely by statutory instruments or by statutory instruments and legislation. That is important because, as the Minister knows, the DAA is determined to lift the restrictions that are currently in place on night time noise. It is particularly essential that residents would be involved and not just after the event but upfront. That is validated to me by a response the Minister sent to me earlier this month when I presented him with a table about how Dublin Airport was one of the least regulated in Europe. The Minister replied to me, presumably with advice from the DAA, that that was not quite true and that other airports such as at Copenhagen and Palma were outside of that scope. What the Minister's officials or the DAA did not tell the Minister is that was not comparing like with like. Copenhagen has three runways exceeding 3,000 m in length. Departing aircraft can take off over the sea, mitigating airport noise in any circumstance in that location. Similarly, in Palma, the two parallel runways are very close to the sea. Residents have expertise. They are often people who work in the airport and who live there. The Minister will not get that expertise from officials, and he should try to tap it earlier in the process.

We are on the same page to some extent. I gave an answer about the statutory instrument or primary legislation to Deputy Robert Troy and I think Deputy Daly had just not arrived yet. That will be decided very shortly. It has taken longer than I expected and I have apologised to the House already about this. It is very complicated. It is a matter of competing legislation and it is with the Attorney General's office. A draft came back of the secondary legislation already this week and it has gone back for more tweaking and is nearly ready. Whether there will be primary legislation or not still has to be decided. That is a matter of urgency. It is not a simple legal problem. I do not want to come back to this House with legislation which is going to be challenged ad nauseam in the courts. I would rather have some fairly robust legislation which I can stand over.

On the issue of someone from the forum coming to talk to the IAA, I do not know whether it will welcome it or not, but I do not care much who welcomes it or not. It is important that input is taken from residents. I hope they will be able to select someone fairly agreeably without too much difficulty, because I know there are a lot of competing residents in this situation. I would like to make it rather conditional on that rather than it leading to some sort of turf war. I would be very happy for them to have an input into this.

I appreciate that and hopefully we can follow that on. The key point is that there is a unique expertise which people who live in the area but also who depend on the airport for their livelihood and who have a unique aviation expertise can bring to the table, that organisations such as the DAA cannot. While I appreciate the Minister's points about the statutory instrument or legislation and that it is not a simple legal problem, the problem we have is that we have been getting that answer for almost a year now. The communities around Dublin airport are beginning to look a bit like a war zone.

Development is under way. People are worried because it is the deliberate and stated intention of the DAA that, once it gets this runway up and running, it intends to move to restrict the conditions which it imposed and which were only minimal years ago where quality of life for residents was concerned.

I welcome the fact that the Minister will bring some of them on board and I hope that the matter can be fast-tracked. However, we need the Attorney General to bring some clarity to this situation.

I agree that the delay is far too long. The House will understand, however, that it would be worse to bring forward flawed legislation which could be challenged. Deputies Daly and Troy would be the first to say that such legislation had been rushed, so it is difficult.

As regards bringing people into the consultation process on the noise factor, there is a constant difficulty when one has State monopolies of this sort that are likely to ride roughshod over the wishes of people who are suffering as a result of aircraft noise. I know it is taking a long time but I can assure the Deputy that it is important for a Minister in my position to ensure they are given the fullest hearing. They must also be given a voice, and not just a token one, when confronted by a State monopoly which has an enormous amount of power and they feel powerless.

The projects we are talking about must ultimately go ahead, but they must be undertaken with minimal discomfort for local people. The public must be assured that they have been given a fair hearing.

Until such time as the Standing Orders are changed we must all observe the time limits. I now call on Deputy Hildegarde Naughton to present her question.