I do not know what it was based on but it did change. It was probably based more on other judgments in Europe relating to the issue. The alternative to what we did was to ignore the legal advice but the advice was that, if we appointed the IAA, we would be subject to legal challenge. It would have been pretty irresponsible and reckless to appoint the IAA in the face of such advice. With an issue as important as this, we have to take every step to appoint a regulator which we can defend in the courts. That is why it took so long but I share the Deputy's frustration. Delay is an irritant for a Minister in my position but I believe the timetable will still be met. The issue is one of independence, which is a subjective judgment. We were advised that the independence of the IAA was questionable and we decided to take the advice. The Deputy would be the first person to criticise us if we had ignored it. I regret that it took so long but we could not force them to produce advice. If it is good advice in the end, that is fine.
I have not met the CEO of Fingal County Council and I have no plans to do so. My departmental officials meet regularly with officials of Fingal and the county council has been deeply involved in developing the processes required to implement regulation 598/2014. In June, the chief executive officer of Fingal County Council made a presentation to the cross-departmental team convened to support delivery of the north runway project and the council will be more involved as the legislation progresses. If the CEO asks to meet me I will consider it, but I am not sure it is either necessary or appropriate at this stage. Fingal has been appointed designate for the moment and will not actually be appointed until the legislation has been passed. I do not have particularly strong feelings on the issue but at the moment I believe this should continue at official level.
I am absolutely satisfied that the Department has served me very well on this. It has not been responsible for any delays and has responded to every event beyond its control in an extraordinarily efficient way. The complexity of the legislation is stunning as there are deep legal, environmental and planning issues which are in the sphere of specialists. It covers several Departments and there is a lot of exchange between Departments and the Attorney General and Fingal. I do not think the Department is to be criticised for an unfortunate series of events which meant things had to be changed. It responded perfectly adequately and things like that happen in a complicated system of this sort.
Deputy Troy also asked if the person who gave us the legal advice had changed. I do not know who the individual in the Department is but it comes through the Attorney General. There may be external people involved too but I am not certain whether there has been a change. It is more the case that judgments elsewhere gave rise to the change.
I was also asked if Fingal County Council was conflicted in the way the IAA was. The DAA rates represent 8% of the income of Fingal County Council. This is a significant amount but 92% is not from that source. This is a levy and not something for which they are competing with some other body. I am not sure it gives the DAA any great leverage on Fingal County Council as it does not have the option of fighting it. The council will be provided with the appropriate resources to undertake this additional role, ensuring it has the necessary tools to make evidence-based decisions in relation to noise mitigation measures and noise-related operating restrictions. Local authorities have a wide range of statutory regulatory and enforcement functions. These are related to the environment and planning and sit alongside their rate-collection and property tax-setting functions. If somebody wants to point the figure at Fingal, they could equally do so at all county councils, who may be so conflicted in all sorts of ways.
Deputy Troy said local residents groups were satisfied with the IAA but so were we at the time. I am not sure the same groups are dissatisfied with the current decision but, irrespective of their wishes, our wishes or those of the IAA itself, the Attorney General was not satisfied and that is the reason the decision was made.
As regards local resident groups, the DAA is still engaging with them and I am happy to engage with them from time to time. I have already met a large number of them and I have heard what they have to say. I do not think I have refused to meet any local resident group, but this does not mean I am opening the door for them all to come in. Some of them are involved in legal actions and they too, I think, would possibly be dissatisfied if they felt that the IAA was conflicted and this is what the Attorney General has decided.
The Deputy asked if other member states have made a decision on that basis and if they have appointed their aviation authority. I have a table which I can give to the Deputy if he wants it. Belgium, Romania, Spain and the UK have not yet designated their competent authority. The aviation authority designate or in other words, the IAA equivalent, has been appointed in Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal and Sweden. A national regional authority, which is similar to Fingal County Council, has been appointed in most cases, including by Ireland, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Hungary, Greece, France and Finland. The majority of member states appear to have followed the same path as Ireland. Others have appointed their designated authority but I presume that is because they have not had the same legal advice and do not have the same constitutional requirements.
Deputy Munster asked about the competency and independence of the IAA. I have already addressed the issue of independence. The Deputy also asked if Fingal County Council is best placed to take on this role. It offered the best way forward following interdepartmental discussions. We also considered the alternatives, of which we did not have a large number. We looked at State agencies as well. I am not sure if it is appropriate to name them but I am sure they are fairly obvious. We felt that owing to its experience and responsibilities in the environment and regarding noise pollution, Fingal County Council was better placed than other agencies, some of which had no experience or experience in only one particular area. This followed discussions between the Departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport and Housing, Planning and Local Government. We also had to have regard to EU Regulation 598/2014. As I said, Fingal County Council has responsibilities under the EU environmental noise directive, which include responsibilities relating to noise caused by urban conurbations and major transport infrastructures, including roads, railways and airports. In addition, in regard to its planning functions, it has a great deal of experience and expertise in the conduct of environmental impact assessments, EIAs and in managing public consultations. There are synergies arising from the assignment of this additional role to Fingal County Council.
On the issue of conflicts and the 8%, I have already dealt with that in my responses to Deputy Troy. An Bord Pleanála is an independent appeals body, which means the issue of conflict is less powerful because the matter has to be appealed. On the issue of whether the rights of residents are provided for in the Bill, probably not. I presume the regulator will be tasked with ensuring balance in terms of the rights of the nation, the rights of the airport authority and the rights of residents but we do not propose to write those rights into legislation. We do need to ensure there is balance and to make determinations around restrictions on flights or other ameliorating measures.
Whichever body is chosen will be authorised to immediately recruit expertise because there is no body in the country that has on hand the full expertise on noise regulation.