Topical Issue Debate

Pension Provisions

I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this important issue. I do not expect to use all of the time allocated to me because I am sure the news from the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, will be good and positive. The issue concerns the tardiness of the HSE in ensuring gratuities and pensions due to retirees are paid to them expeditiously.

In recent days reference was made to retired staff who had held senior positions in the HSE being rehired on short-term contracts because of their expertise or specialist skills. Many have rightly aired their annoyance and anger at this practice. One can understand staff being utilised in the circumstances for a short period. Their hiring is necessitated because the incentivised retirement scheme led to large numbers of experienced personnel retiring. Their expertise is now sorely missed.

The issue I am raising concerns the number of personnel who retired from their employment with the HSE in the Dublin mid-Leinster area as far back as February. Psychiatric nurses who, in some cases, served in an exemplary fashion for up to 40 years have not, as of today, received what they are rightfully due and expected to receive without any glitch, namely, their pensions and gratuities. They have been left high and dry. It beggars belief that these circumstances have been allowed to prevail, despite the fact that more than three months have elapsed. It certainly reflects poorly on HSE management.

Most people know my views on the HSE at this stage. The kernel of the problem is that the Department's section that deals with pension entitlements and gratuities did not have the necessary staff complement to enable it to carry out the assessments and compute each individual's entitlements. I know from some contacts that there are no additional staff allocated for this task. Surely, since the retirement scheme was flagged well in advance, HSE senior management should have been able to make a good educated guess as to the likely number of retirees. Accordingly, they should have realised a significant number of personnel were required to ensure the entitlements retirees were due could be calculated, assessed and awarded within three or four weeks.

I acknowledge that the staff involved are working to the best and limit of their abilities to deal with the great workload. The computation of gratuities and pensions is complex and requires specialists. It is unfair to have allowed the staff in question to carry such a huge load. The way this issue has been handled by HSE senior management has been extremely poor, to say the least, and less than inspiring.

I ask that this matter be addressed by the HSE deploying immediately a significant number of personnel to its pensions section in the Dublin mid-Leinster area so as to have the pensions and gratuities paid to the retired staff in question. On what does it expect them to live? Does it expect them to live on fresh air? I have been disgusted by the high-handed treatment they have received. There has been little or no communication or return of their telephone calls, and no response to myself, and I wrote letters on their behalf. This seems to be a trend with the HSE. It does not respond to mere minions like me who are elected by such people to advocate on their behalf.

Let us end this debacle, after more than three months, for these people who have given excellent public service. These people, who have given public service of the highest standard, should not have to wait any longer for their entitlements. I expect a positive reply from the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch.

If we could only meet everyone's expectations. I am taking this Topical Issue matter on behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, and I thank Deputy Penrose for raising it.

The so-called pensions grace period was introduced with effect from 1 January 2010. It provided that the reduction in public service pay, which had effect from the same date, would be disregarded for the purpose of calculating retirement benefits for staff who retired by 29 February 2012. During the period from September 2011 to February 2012, 4,700 staff retired from the public health service. Of this figure, 970 were staff who were not in current service, such as persons availing of preserved benefits or who had been absent on long-term sick leave.

The concentration of retirements in the final months of the grace period necessitated the calculation and payment of benefits at a rate well above normal levels. To deal with this increase in demand in the context of reducing staff numbers, where possible, pensions unit staff worked additional hours on an overtime basis. Every effort is being made to ensure benefits are calculated and paid within a reasonable timeframe. It is important to note that, in general, there is a time lag of four to six weeks between retirement date and the payment of pension. Within this period a retiree would generally receive a final salary payment.

In recent months, with the concentrated volume of retirements, the general processing period has had to be extended to six to eight weeks. To date, the retirement benefits of more than 90% of staff who retired from the public health sector before the end of the grace period have been fully paid out. The processing of benefits in some cases can be complex owing to the variety of contractual arrangements, work patterns and different payment patterns which may have applied throughout the career of the health service employee. Where delays have been experienced or where a retired staff member has requested to be paid some moneys, the HSE has made interim part-payments. This is to minimise financial hardship. This part-payment is made while the retired employee's full career service and pensionable earnings are being verified.

I am aware that recently there have been some resourcing issues in the pensions service in the HSE midlands region. To address this, a pension manager has been assigned, along with three additional staff, to deal with outstanding cases. As a result, good progress has been made and the HSE anticipates the great majority of these cases will have been processed by the end of this month. A small number of more complex cases, which I am sure is what the Deputy is talking about, will take somewhat longer to process, but it is anticipated these will be completed during June.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, for the complex reply. Two of those with whom I am involved have spent almost 40 years in St. Loman's Hospital in Mullingar. They have been working in one area and there is no complexity. I have one who retired some months ago due to ill health and has not received anything. This lady is in a difficult financial position and had to retire on health grounds. We owe it to them.

I was here when the Prompt Payment of Accounts Bill 1997 was enacted under which State bodies got 30 days grace to pay or otherwise there would be penalties. The State is dilatory and negligent. The HSE should have known. Of course, they knew who would retire. If a person had 38 or 39 years' service, anybody would know he or she would retire. All they had to do was check the records. This is not good enough. I will not settle for this type of thing ever happening again. It is something the Minister of State would address.

I compliment the staff who are trying to work to the nth degree and the best of their ability to deal with the matter. Not enough staff were allocated to this task in the Dublin and mid-Leinster region. It is only in recent days they started to get their wheel out after receiving letters. I sent my letter the other day to Mr. Magee, the chief executive officer of the HSE. This should have been well flagged.

If this ever happens again, the outstanding payments should be levied against the State body involved. At the end of the day, suppliers are entitled to get interest if the State does not honour its 30 day commitment, and individuals who have given significant service to the State in their work should likewise be remunerated.

Like Deputy Penrose, I would hope we never again find ourselves in a position where we must introduce a scheme such as this, even though, under the agreement with those who are paying for the ongoing funding of the country, we have agreed we must reduce further. The manner in which this scheme was introduced did no one any favours.

There are approximately 370 remaining grace period retirements still to be paid. Whereas I take on board what Deputy Penrose said about someone who retired as a result of ill health, if an application were made to the HSE, there would be part-payment forthcoming. No one should be left destitute as a result of retiring under a scheme which the Government introduced.

There were staff who, up until two weeks before the deadline, had not notified the Department of Health or anyone else that they were about to retire. In some instances, it was not the case that staff had sent in notice well in advance.

Despite the fact a person may have worked in one institution all of his or her working life, there are issues such as overtime and maternity leave that must be calculated. The last thing we want is that someone does not get the full pension to which he or she would be entitled.

Ambulance Service

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for accepting this issue which is of grave importance to the people of Carlow, especially since an issue arose in the recent past which has created much media attention, both nationally and locally. The issue concerns a lack of common sense in the management of the ambulance service in the area. I point out that there is no issue with the level of care and attention the particular individual in question received in the past week.

The incident arose during a Leinster minor football championship match in Dr. Cullen Park in Carlow on Wednesday of last night week when, unfortunately, a 17 year old player broke his leg just before half-time. I bring to the attention of the House the farcical comedy of errors that arose as a result. The player in question broke his leg and a call was placed to the ambulance service at 8.05 p.m. Because there are only two ambulances available in Carlow, both of which were out on duty at the time, an ambulance had to be dispatched from Portlaoise. It arrived in Carlow at 8.47 p.m. The player was attended to in Dr. Cullen Park in Carlow by the doctor on duty and it was obvious his leg was broken badly. He was cared for by the doctor while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

The player arrived in St. Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny at approximately 9.55 p.m. He was assessed and an ambulance was requested to bring him to Waterford, which is the main centre of excellence in the particular area. An ambulance had to be dispatched from Dublin to bring him to Waterford. On its way from Dublin, an emergency arose in Naas and the ambulance was diverted to Naas. As I pointed out, there is no issue with the care and attention the player was getting.

Another ambulance was requested from Carlow, which was the original place of the incident. The ambulance arrived from Carlow to Kilkenny at 1.43 a.m. to bring the player to Waterford Regional Hospital. The player arrived in Waterford Regional Hospital at 3.20 a.m. and was looked after, and was got to bed at 4 a.m., which was eight hours after the original incident took place. It was a comedy of errors.

It was obvious that the player's leg was badly broken. I accept there was no threat to his life. However, when the doctor on duty diagnosed the break, the player should have been transferred directly to Waterford Regional Hospital rather than to St. Luke's in Kilkenny. It did not seem to make sense to oblige him to wait in St. Luke's for six hours before transporting him to Waterford.

We are seeking a common-sense approach to this matter, which has given rise to concern both locally and nationally. I am interested in ensuring there will be no recurrence of these events. I accept that if there had been a life-threatening condition involved and if there had been a wait of six hours, then matters would be much more serious. Fortunately, in this instance the player had broken his leg but it was not a life-threatening injury. Common sense must prevail in respect of the management of the ambulance service in the area. If a doctor is on duty and if he or she diagnoses the extent and nature of an injury, then he or she should be in a position to decide the hospital to which the patient should be brought. In this instance, Waterford Regional Hospital, the main centre of excellence for orthopaedics in the area, should have been the destination to which the patient was transported. I ask that the position in this regard be reassessed in order that common sense will prevail in future.

I thank the Deputy for raising this topical issue, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly. When an emergency ambulance is requested, the nearest available ambulance crewed by paramedic or advanced paramedic staff is dispatched by the control and command centre. On arrival at the incident, the ambulance crew assesses and stabilises the patient and provides ongoing treatment, as required, during transport to an emergency department. Clinical protocols require patients to be transported to the nearest accident and emergency department. Accordingly, patients in the catchment area of St. Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, are brought to the accident and emergency department at that facility, where their condition can be appropriately assessed and clinical decisions made on further treatment. Where, following assessment by an accident and emergency department consultant, a decision is made to transfer a patient to another hospital for treatment, this transfer is carried out by intermediate care transport, where available, or by emergency ambulance. Where an emergency ambulance is to be used for the inter-hospital transfer of a stabilised patient, as with 999 calls, priority is always given to emergencies involving injuries or conditions that are life-threatening in nature. Consideration is also given to maintaining a level of emergency ambulance cover in the area.

The national ambulance service works closely with both local GP services and out-of-hours family doctor services in all areas. While some level of emergency care and assessment may be possible at this level at the scene of an incident, most often full assessments, including a range of diagnostic tests, take place in the emergency department. This is the position where an X-ray is required, particularly as an assessment in respect of to treatment cannot be carried out prior to the X-ray. On occasion, where a specific specialty is known to be required, a clinical decision may be made to go directly to another hospital where that specialty is available. Such a decision may be based on factors such as an on-scene assessment of the patient's condition or his or her known medical history. Where an X-ray is required, this is not possible.

In the recent case to which the Deputy refers, a local GP was present at the incident and was liaising with the ambulance service until the nearest emergency ambulance with an advanced paramedic on board arrived. The patient received treatment at the scene from the ambulance crew, including analgesia, and was transferred to Kilkenny accident and emergency. Following further assessment and diagnosis, a clinical decision was made to transfer the stabilised patient to Waterford. The transfer was made and the patient received appropriate treatment in respect of his injury. Our pre-hospital emergency care standards for paramedics and for the ambulance service are at the forefront of best practice. I am satisfied that, in this instance, appropriate clinical protocols were followed and that the clinical decisions made were in the best interests of the patient.

I thank the Minister of State for her comprehensive reply. I reiterate that the level of care provided in this particular case is not in question. The patient involved received very good care. However, it did not make sense that the doctor on duty, who is a specialist in this area and who regularly attends GAA matches and other sporting events, could not decide on which hospital to send the player who had sustained a bad leg break. It was obvious that the best place to transport the player was the nearest orthopaedic centre of excellence. That centre of excellence is, of course, located in Waterford. As a result of what happened in the Celtic tiger era, there are good roads in the area and the journey from Carlow to Waterford, which used to take 90 minutes, now takes less than an hour. Rather than obliging the patient involved to spend six hours sitting in the accident and emergency department in Kilkenny following his X-ray, it would have made more sense to transport him directly to Waterford to have everything done in one go. He would, by 3 a.m., have been well on the way to recovery.

There is a need to ensure the management of the ambulance service in the area is more streamlined in nature. This will ensure that people will not be obliged to wait for long periods to be treated and that we can get the best use of the service available. I reiterate that there is no doubt that the patient in this instance received the best care possible.

In all situations, local knowledge is clearly invaluable. In this instance there was a GP present and this individual was in constant contact with the ambulance service. We must, therefore, assume that the decisions made were in the best interests of the person who required treatment. I have taken on board what the Deputy has said and I will ensure the Minister for Health is made aware of his concerns.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings

I welcome the Minister. Today is the 38th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I want to extend my continuing sympathy to and express my solidarity with all the survivors and the bereaved of that terrible day. Some 33 people were killed in those bombings, which were carried out by agents acting in collusion with British Crown forces. Of that there is now no doubt. However, what we do not have is accountability and truth and justice from the British Government.

During his presentation to the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement on 2 February last, Members from both Houses pressed British Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, MP, on the failure of the British Government to disclose relevant documentation. Mr. Paterson told the committee that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, MP, had indicated that "He assured his counterpart here that we have made available the synopsis that is relevant to this case." This apparently refers to a ten-page letter to Judge Barron from former Secretary of State, John Reid, dated 26 February 2002. Judge Barron expressed his frustration regarding the lack of information contained in this letter. He repeatedly requested the British Government for access to the documents themselves but on every occasion he was refused. With a straight face, Owen Paterson, MP, told the committee that the British Government has been "completely straight and up-front". He also stated, "At every opportunity we have made information available". The Irish Government cannot let this go unchallenged.

On 9 February last, the Seanad agreed unanimously a motion which notes that the question of obtaining access to information held by the British Government has been pursued for many years and requests the Irish Government "to continue to raise the matter with the British Government and to press it to comply with this request and reaffirms the support of Members on all sides of this House". This mirrors a similar resolution adopted by the Dáil on my party's proposal at this time last year. Clearly, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade have a strong mandate from the Oireachtas - this has been repeatedly stated and was the subject of a motion passed unanimously by the House a few short years ago - to pursue this issue with real determination with the British Government.

On 18 April last, The Guardian newspaper in Britain reported that an official review has concluded that thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed during the final years of the British Empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments. Those papers that survived were flown to Britain, where they were hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive, beyond the reach of historians and members of the public and in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain. These files related to crimes by British forces in Kenya and other countries. The Government here should certainly ask the British Government if files relating to the conflict in Ireland, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and other acts of collusion, in particular, were similarly treated. Were some files destroyed and others retained secretly and, perhaps, illegally? We need answers to our questions in this regard.

The final issue to which I wish to refer is that relating to funding for Justice for the Forgotten. This organisation has been the sole representative voice for victims of the conflict in this State for many years. The previous Government ended funding for the group which has done significant work both to support the survivors and the bereaved and to advance the search for truth and justice. In December 2010, Justice for the Forgotten, while retaining its own name and identity, merged with the Pat Finucane Centre and secured a limited stream of funding. However, that did not cover the Dublin office which is now regrettably closed. The entire office has been vacated and its work and files transferred only the other day to a portakabin at the home of the principal voice and anchor of the group's great work. This is simply intolerable and I urge the Government to restore funding for Justice for the Forgotten to allow it resume its efficient and effective work which is much appreciated by the survivors and the bereaved of those terrible acts of 17 May 1974.

I thank Deputy Ó Caoláin for raising this issue in the House today, the anniversary of the savage and barbaric bombings in Dublin and Monaghan and the tragic loss of life and injuries that resulted. Thirty-eight years ago, three bombs exploded around Dublin, including not far from here, in the busy evening rush hour. Then, about 90 minutes later, another bomb exploded outside Greacen's Pub in Monaghan town. Thirty-three people were killed and more than 100 people suffered injuries in these four bombs. The families of those killed and injured have borne the grief of those tragic events. Although the passage of time may have eased their pain to some small degree, their suffering has not gone away and the memory of their loved ones lives on with them.

The late Judge Henry Barron carried out a detailed and painstaking inquiry into those awful events of May 1974 and other tragic atrocities that took place between 1972 and 1976 in which many other innocent people lost their lives. The Barron report provided some of the answers the families concerned had sought about the bombings and the subsequent hearings of the Oireachtas joint committee provided the families with an important opportunity to have their voices heard and to tell their stories. All the families still have unanswered questions about what happened to their loved ones, about why it happened and how it happened.

This House and Seanad Éireann have previously and unanimously urged the British Government to allow access to documents relevant to these events. I know that many Deputies in this House have raised this issue with our Westminster counterparts and that they will continue to do so. For its part, since this Government took office, the Taoiseach has raised the issue with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Tánaiste has also raised the matter with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson.

Dealing with the legacy of the past is not an easy task. There is no simple formula of words or actions that can put things right. The Government is strongly committed to working in partnership with the British Government and with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive to find ways to address the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland. There is no ready resolution to the complexity of addressing the past. It is, however, a challenge that the two Governments and the executive are determined and willing to undertake. That said, it is also a challenge that all who were party to the conflict must also be willing to take up.

As we progress to a better future for all who share this island and those who live on the neighbouring island, we must not forget those who died, those who were injured and those who mourn them. The Good Friday Agreement recognised the special position of victims. In remembering the victims and their families, we should be strengthened in our determination to construct a changed society in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

This House is unanimous in its message to our British counterparts. I hope we can also send a message of solidarity to the families of those who were so tragically killed in Dublin and Monaghan and, indeed, to the families of all those who lost their lives in the conflict.

Deputy Ó Caoláin referred to the closure of the Dublin office of the Justice for the Forgotten and the issue arising with regard to the storage of its documents. Unfortunately, in current financial circumstances I cannot create funding that is not available. I regret I am not in a position to address the funding issue. I would be happy to ask departmental officials to liaise with the group to see to what extent, if any, we could be of assistance in document storage.

Not for the first time, I want to reaffirm my and my party's absolute commitment to addressing the tragic occurrences of the past years and the consequences of the conflict. The critical issue here is the willingness of one of the key protagonists, the British Government, to so do also. There has been a record of failure on its part with minimalist responses to a series of requests by eminent people appointed by the Houses of the Oireachtas to carry out inquiries into the matters in question. It is absolutely unacceptable.

As I said in my opening remarks, there is evidence the British Government has secretly retained vast stores of documents regarding its former imperial presence on the part of past British Governments. The Kenyan situation is one of particular note. It is most likely, given the vast store of documents on the Kenyan situation, that the events of 38 years ago here in this city and my home town of Monaghan have a similar store of documentation and evidence regarding those responsible for carrying out of these atrocities and the raison d’être for their proposition and carrying out. I believe that information is indeed in the hands of the British Government and its surrogate forces in Britain and the North of Ireland.

It is imperative for the sake of truth and justice that they fully comply with the unanimous appeal of this House, one which I and the Minister supported. I urge the Government to readdress this issue with its British counterparts to see the establishment of a full, independent, cross-jurisdictional inquiry. Even in these straitened economic times, I also appeal for a limited restoration of the essential funding to allow Justice for the Forgotten to continue its important work, work it would only be delighted to conclude but only in the context of finality and closure for all of the survivors and bereaved.

This debate has provided a valuable opportunity for the House to once again not only express solidarity with the families of the victims of those dreadful bombings but to restate the united position of this House with regard to production of information and documents.

In July 2008, the Dáil unanimously adopted a motion urging the British Government to allow access to original documents held by it relating to the atrocities inquired into by Judge Barron. It directed the Clerk of the Dáil to request the matter be considered by the House of Commons. Seanad Éireann passed a unanimous motion in similar terms in February 2012. The Dáil restated its position on this matter when it adopted a unanimous position in a Private Members' motion in May 2011. Representatives of the previous and current Government have raised this matter with the British Government so far, unfortunately, without success. The Tánaiste has previously raised the matter with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who has indicated the British Government was not in a position to accede to the request. The Taoiseach has raised the matter with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, as recently as their meeting during St. Patrick's week earlier this year.

Today's exchange has provided an opportunity to reaffirm the united position which the House adopted with regard to this important issue. It is essential we continue to maintain that united front and I assure the Deputy the Government will continue to raise this issue at every opportunity with the British Government and its members.

State Airports

I welcome the opportunity to address this important issue. The Minister is well aware of the considerable publicity on the security issues that have arisen at Dublin Airport and within the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA. It is my understanding the DAA and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport have, for the past six weeks, been aware of concerns about an audit of security procedures at the airport. For that reason, we are deeply concerned the Department did not move more quickly to address this issue. The Minister is also aware of the concerns of the people who fly through the airport and, more particularly, the impact this has on business people who must transfer through other airports, particularly Heathrow. It is the case that many people who must necessarily travel through Heathrow must now be screened again there, which will delay access to other locations and airports. It also has a negative impact on Ireland as a place to do business and as a tourist destination.

I ask that the Minister clarify the following issues. When did the Department become aware of the issue concerning the audit of goods sold within the airport environment? Are there any implications for the other two major State airports in Shannon and Cork? Nobody is suggesting there is an immediate crisis or that anything particularly nefarious has taken place but, unfortunately, there is an inability to provide the appropriate recognition of where goods sold in the airport environment emanate, the traceability of same or to stand over the fact that the goods have not been tampered with or could be used in some kind of criminal plot. That raises serious concerns in the minds of the travelling public, and as a result, Ireland has been presented as less than whole in its security arrangements in the airport environment.

This is damaging and the issue should not have arisen. My understanding is this audit by the European Commission was not unscheduled and the Department and DAA were well aware of the procedures in place and that the check would be done. It is disappointing that when it is known a State agency is not conforming to regulations, nothing is done when an audit is allowed to take place. My understanding is that it will take two months to put in place appropriate procedures to allow passengers to transit other airports without having to go through screening or security checks again. If that is so, it is outrageous that remedial action did not take place when the Department and the DAA first became aware of the problem. Will the Minister clarify the issue and the question of why it took so long - or the process of an audit - to spur the Department and the DAA to action?

I thank the Deputy for raising the matter, which I am dealing with on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar. I welcome the Deputy to the House as we were a little concerned that he had been delayed at the security gates.

A transit passenger.

In fairness, the Acting Chairman could have provided at least an extra minute to cope with the obvious sprints he had to make down the corridor to get here in good time.

This is a serious issue and I thank the Deputy for raising it. In light of recent comment about the outcome of the European Commission's inspection of Dublin Airport, I state at the outset that Dublin Airport is safe for passengers, aircraft and all users of the airport. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has responsibility for aviation security policy and for ensuring compliance by airports, airlines and other relevant entities with national and international aviation security requirements. This function is carried out by the Department through the implementation of a comprehensive quality control programme, including audits, inspections and tests at Irish State and regional airports, with the aim of ensuring security at Irish airports meets EU and international requirements.

The implementation of security measures at individual airports within the State is, for operational reasons, a matter for the individual airport operator concerned and for all entities operating within the airport environment. In addition to the comprehensive compliance monitoring regime implemented by the Department at Dublin Airport and all other airports in the State, there is a high level of interaction between the Department and the DAA on an ongoing basis on aviation security matters. The DAA is also represented at the national civil aviation security committee, which is chaired by the Department and meets at a minimum biannually. Additionally Dublin Airport, as with other airports in the State, has its own airport security committee that meets regularly throughout the year.

For security reasons I will not comment on the specifics of security at Dublin Airport or any other airport. In the course of the Department's compliance monitoring activities, if and when aviation security related issues arise, the Department works closely with the entity concerned - and there are a range of entities involved, including airports, airlines, catering companies, cargo companies, etc. - to rectify these issues as quickly as possible in line with national and European Union legislative requirements.

The recent European Commission inspection of security at Dublin Airport was carried out at the end of March. The Commission undertakes these audits at all airports in the EU periodically, in line with EU aviation security legislation, to assess compliance with the common aviation security rules. During the inspection, the Commission found a number of deficiencies and, as a result, other member states may impose some additional security procedures on aircraft arriving from Dublin into their airports. These additional procedures are not expected to have any impact on passengers at Dublin Airport. However, passengers departing from Dublin Airport arriving at other EU airports and transferring through those airports en route to their final destination may be required to undergo security screening again at the airport where they are transferring.

For security reasons I cannot go into the specific details of the issues identified but the Minister and his Department, working in conjunction with the DAA, have taken immediate action to rectify these issues. In that light, a meeting of the national civil aviation security committee was convened yesterday by the Department to address the matter with relevant parties. One of the deficiencies identified during the Commission inspection has been addressed, and intensive work is ongoing to address the second issue in as short a timeframe as possible. To ensure security at the airport is maintained, Dublin Airport is implementing back-up procedures to address the second matter in the short term while a longer-term solution is implemented.

It is important to state Dublin Airport is safe for passengers, aircraft and all users of the airport. All necessary steps are being taken to ensure the second remaining issue is addressed as quickly as possible to ensure the airport fully meets all EU aviation security requirements, those additional security procedures imposed on aircraft arriving in other EU airports from Dublin can be lifted as soon as possible, and to ensure sustained compliance with all EU and international aviation security standards in the future.

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply, but, unfortunately, the questions I posed in the course of my contribution remain unanswered. Therefore, I will repeat them. When the Department and the Dublin Airport Authority were both well aware that the audit of the processing of goods through the airport did not reach the standards set in the directives and expected by other airports, why did the Department not move in advance of the scheduled audit by Commission compliance unit personnel? What are the implications for Shannon Airport and Cork Airport in the light of the deficiencies found at Dublin Airport? Must there be a separate inspection of these airports before there must be a change of procedures at either of these locations or they fall foul of the monitoring standards in other airports through which passengers using Shannon and Cork Airports transit? As the information sought might not be immediately available to the Minister, perhaps he might communicate my request to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. I would be happy for it to provide me with the information later. I appreciate the matter does not fall within the Minister's competency.

I am not aware of implications arising from these events for either Cork Airport or Shannon Airport; the inspection was of Dublin Airport. The action taken by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department was to call a meeting to address issues raised, one of which has already been addressed. I will certainly ask my colleague to furnish the Deputy with any information I am not in a position to provide.