Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 20 Apr 2005

Vol. 180 No. 2

State Airports: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann

—deplores the failure of the Government to take a decision on the development of a second terminal at Dublin Airport;

—condemns the Government for its failure to choose a site with optimum capacity for the Airport's future growth; and

—notes the failure of the Dublin Airport Authority to provide adequate security protection to the travelling public and to airline services utilising Dublin Airport and calls on the Government to carry out an immediate review in connection with the security arrangements at all airports nationally.

I welcome the Minister of Transport to the House for this important motion. Anyone who saw the scenes of utter chaos at Dublin Airport on our television screens in recent days can be in no doubt that our national airport is in an utter mess. These problems of long delays to clear security and chronic overcrowding are not new.

During peak periods in the summer and on bank holiday weekends, such overcrowding has become normal at Dublin Airport. The uncovering of serious security breaches last week put the problems at the airport back in the public's mind and under the scrutiny of the national media. There is no doubt that Dublin Airport is struggling to cope. The time has long passed when it could function as a normal, efficient, effective working modern airport.

The airport's most basic problem is chronic overcrowding. Not only does this cause major inconvenience for the travelling public and airport staff, it also conveys an extremely negative image of Ireland to tourists and overseas business travellers alike. Most fundamentally of all, it is a dangerous security hazard. While there was quite justified concern at the security breaches that occurred at the airport last week, the most obvious threat, particularly when one viewed the situation developing over the weekend, was the question of public safety within the terminal building itself, regardless of what persons might be trying to smuggle on to an aeroplane. If an emergency situation such as a bomb scare or a fire were to develop inside the terminal building, there could be numerous fatalities and injuries in the stampede which would undoubtedly transpire.

The finger of blame for the dangerous and unacceptable situation at the airport must be pointed at the Government, which has sat idly by and allowed it to develop. We have a Government willing to allow a First World country such as Ireland have a Third World airport. One member of the public recently referred to the airport as being akin to Lagos airport, which has been rated as one of the worst airports in the world. That is quite an accolade.

For many years the Government has been aware of the extent of the problem facing Dublin Airport. We have witnessed various Ministers for Transport come and go but nothing has happened. We have been constantly promised an imminent decision on the need to develop a second terminal at the airport but the public has received nothing. The Government continues to dither over the issue of developing a new terminal and all the while Dublin Airport grinds to a halt.

The aviation sector is rapidly expanding throughout the world and Ireland is no exception. Over the past 20 years the number of people travelling has grown enormously, greatly helped by the advent of the low-cost carrier model best exemplified by the Ryanair business philosophy. A weekend away to a European city is no longer viewed as an exotic luxury by many. For those who have invested in property overseas in particular, it is a regular occurrence.

Dublin Airport has benefited hugely from this growth in the aviation sector. Last year alone, 17 million passengers passed through Dublin Airport. That figure is expected to rise year on year, with projected growth to 30 million passengers within a ten year period. However, this rapid growth is becoming the undoing of the airport's success, not least because the Government has stalled and appears to be unwilling to act to alleviate the problems arising there. Critically, this inaction is also preventing the airport from tapping into the great potential presented by passenger growth.

The bottleneck preventing the expansion of Dublin Airport, and the potential this represents in terms of job creation and increases in tourism revenue, is the Government. It is unacceptable that it has stalled and dithered on this critical issue. It has been shaky on the issue since it first took office and in its 2002 programme for Government it could not even give a commitment to develop a second terminal for the airport, even though it was clear a new terminal was needed.

Instead, the Government gave a commitment merely to examine the possibility of an independent terminal at the airport and, despite glaringly obvious evidence to the contrary, remained unsure as to the feasibility of a second terminal. Three years on it would appear it is still being examined. One can only conclude the Government has its head in the clouds or perhaps the years of being ushered through Dublin Airport without having to endure the endless queues faced by the public has made it blind to the chronic overcrowding.

Why does it take the Government so long to act? It is little wonder this Government, too long in office and utterly paralysed, failed to spend its full capital allocation in 2004. A long list of reports has been received and read by the Government on the need for a second terminal — the Doogan report in 2002; the Aer Rianta master plan; the Mullarkey report; and the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill report — yet it has continued to dither.

It defies logic that the Government is willing to sit back and allow utter chaos to develop at our airport. No one has been called to account for these delays, much less asked to explain why making a decision on a much needed second terminal is taking so long. It seems that the same old mantra is now being repeated by the current Minister for Transport. His predecessor, Deputy Brennan, constantly told us that a decision was imminent. Despite having received 13 expressions of interest in building a second terminal he was not able to take that decision before the Fianna Fáil axe ended his opportunity to deliver.

A decision is also imminent from the current Minister but we have seen nothing. In the absence of the full details one must rely on media speculation, which indicates that the Government's preferred option is that the Dublin Airport Authority build and operate a second terminal on airport land. It would appear that the Progressive Democrats commitment to a privately owned and independently operated terminal has been pushed to one side.

The Government's apparent support for the Dublin Airport Authority's plan has more worrying consequences than whether the terminal is State or privately owned. The greater worry lies in the fact that the Dublin Airport Authority's site may not be the best site for the development of a second terminal.

This site, which lies to the north of the existing terminal, has several characteristics that make it inadequate and less than ideal. The capacity of a second terminal is critical, not least in dealing with the predicted growth in passenger numbers at Dublin Airport. As I understand it, the Dublin Airport Authority site at Dublin Airport is limited in size and could not be expanded in the future. If we accept the plan of the authority, we could be left with a less than optimal site that will reach full capacity quickly. This may leave us in the position in ten years of having to consider building a third terminal to cope with demand.

Vision is required from the Minister for Transport. A site must be selected that will allow a terminal to be developed that has growth potential into the future. Short-term measures are not enough. The consequences of user growth being underestimated can be disastrous, as evidenced by the M50 motorway and more recently, by the waste water treatment plant in Dublin, which is insufficient. There was no foresight used in the latter development, even though the Minister stated this was the way forward and the plant was exactly what Dublin required. Now we find the plant is inadequate.

The only way to overcome the problems at Dublin Airport is to develop a new terminal on a greenfield site. A site to the west of the existing terminal, sandwiched between the existing runway and the proposed new runway is the best location. Greenfield sites, largely chosen for their future development potential, are now the norm internationally. It would be a retrograde step for the Government to opt for a design concept, favoured by the Dublin Airport Authority, which is falling out of favour internationally. However, the Government is taking a short-term view and has not considered anything other than the plan put to it by the authority. Fine Gael is not convinced this is the best option for the airport.

I urge the Government to act immediately on the second terminal. Its failure to act to date is impacting negatively on the business and tourism sectors. It is tarnishing Ireland's image abroad and endangering the safety and security of the travelling public.

A decision on a second terminal cannot be delayed any longer. Action is needed now. The location and future capacity of a second terminal are critical issues and if they are not dealt with properly, we face the prospect of returning to this issue shortly and passengers face the prospect of more overcrowding at the airport.

The examples of security breaches highlighted last week are further evidence of the deterioration in conditions at Dublin Airport. The level of security breaches detected, including the smuggling of knives, firearms and bomb-making equipment, is very frightening.

These security breaches ——

The Senator should not make statements ——

Senator Burke, please continue.

The Senator should not make statements about Irish aviation ——

The Minister will have his time.

These are lies. That statement is not true. There were no firearms and there was no bomb-making equipment.

The Minister will have an opportunity to respond.

These security breaches are simply intolerable ——

The Senator should not continue with that nonsense. It does not assist those in Irish aviation.

The Minister will have his time.

It is dreadful to think of a situation, which could so easily develop, either at Dublin Airport or on a flight out of Dublin Airport ——

The Senator should not talk rubbish.

We do not know what the situation is regarding other airports or the ports. The media should be commended for highlighting what happened at Dublin Airport and I look forward to the Minister's explanations.

I second the motion and welcome the opportunity to discuss not just the immediate issue of security, but the ongoing problem of the failure of the Government to act since its commitment in 2002 to build a second terminal.

I am astonished at the brass neck of the Government, with no intervention on the part of the Minister for Transport, I hope, in tabling the amendment before us. The amendment deletes the Opposition motion and goes on to state that the House "welcomes the Government's efforts to ensure the timely provision of additional terminal capacity at Dublin Airport on an efficient, cost-effective basis". Timely? This has gone on since 2002. The former Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, was "days from a decision" before he was ousted and sent to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. At least he was prepared to make a decision on this issue. Why has no decision been reached? This has nothing to do with the terminal. This is about the failure of the Government to produce a viable strategy for Aer Lingus. That is the problem.

There are two separate issues the Government and specifically, the Taoiseach, have intertwined. The Taoiseach is trying to strike a deal with both sets of unions to keep them on side in order to ensure that there are no industrial relations problems in the run-up to the general election. Senator Morrissey is aware of this and has made eloquent statements on the matter outside the House. It is inevitable that Aer Lingus will be part-privatised and there will be a spat over that. The payback for the unions in the Dublin Airport Authority will be to allow the authority to build and run a new terminal. This is where the problem lies and this explains why the Government has not made the decision that was promised in 2001.

Who suffers as a result of the side deal between the unions and the Taoiseach? I suspect the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, has no say in the matter and is looking on from the side lines in frustration, chipping in as he goes along. The Minister has no real say on this because it will be decided in the Taoiseach's office. The people who are losing out because of the inertia of the Government are consumers. The fact that we do not have a second terminal up and running, leaving aside the daily mess that is Dublin Airport, is dreadful. An operational terminal could entice more operators into the market, achieve lower prices for consumers and attract more tourists into the country to spend money. Consumers are losing out as a result of the failure of the Government to act.

Dublin Airport is reeling, as everyone knows. It is a mess. That is clear to anyone who goes through the airport, whether on a weekly or monthly basis. It is a catastrophe waiting to happen. The lack of space for the travelling public is appalling, with 17 million people using the airport annually. There is a complete failure to deliver quality customer services. Until recently, one had to pay for a trolley. Imagine passengers from Manchester or London arriving in Dublin Airport with sterling in their pockets and being told that they need a euro coin to obtain a trolley. Thankfully, that has changed recently. The way in which people are fleeced for a cup of tea, coffee or a sandwich in the airport ——

That is true of every airport.

The Minister is becoming agitated, I must be hitting some buttons.

No, the Senator is just talking off the top of his head.

This is the failure ——

The Senator must have read all of the tabloid newspapers.

This is the result of the failure of the Minister for Transport to take a decision on the issue and to deliver a service for people in the airport, a service that is focused on the customer rather than one that is driven by union politics. There is an obvious disagreement between two unions at the airport, with one union supporting one terminal option and the other supporting an alternative option. However, the big losers in all of this are the consumers.

The Minister must deal with a number of issues concerning the Dublin Airport Authority. We have had the Mullarkey report, which was an assessment of the 13 bids received by the Government when the project was put out to tender in 2002. We have had the Fingal report, from the elected members of Fingal County Council. That report states that the site favoured by the Dublin Airport Authority just north of the existing terminal is not the best option because of lack of capacity. When Dublin Airport Authority was considering what was best for the airport, did it consider all of the options or only those in which it had a controlling interest, namely, lands that it owned? In determining what was best for Dublin Airport the authority only looked at land within its control. The Minister can confirm or deny this. He should comment on this crucial issue in the course of his reply.

Dublin Airport Authority commissioned a report on its own site which has never been published. Will the Minister publish it? He appoints the authority and in effect takes quasi-control and responsibility for the authority through both Houses of the Oireachtas. Will he publish the authority's report on its own site? All of the flaws, to which my colleague Senator Paddy Burke referred, in terms of lack of capacity, failure to plan for the future and the disruption it would cause the current site could be highlighted if we could see the report.

This is an important issue, not only for consumers and investment in the city and throughout the country but also for safety, as rightly stated by Senator Burke. The Minister must answer significant questions. His failure to make a decision on the matter suggests it is being made at a higher level.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Seanad Éireann" and substitute the following:

"—welcomes the Government's efforts to ensure the timely provision of additional terminal capacity at Dublin Airport on an efficient, cost-effective basis;

—notes the future arrangements for the provision of such capacity will be designed to ensure that both the location and operation of such terminal capacity are in keeping with the optimum development of an efficient Dublin Airport;

—notes the Government commitment to ensuring the highest standards of aviation security at Irish airports;

—notes that the key issues raised by the EU security inspection at Dublin Airport were addressed with immediate effect; and

—notes that the Minister for Transport and his Department will engage with the airports and airlines with a view to ensuring that all improvements in security arising from the findings of the EU inspection are implemented."

I welcome the efforts of the Government, the Minister and the previous Minister in dealing with the changing nature of the aviation sector. Those of us who understand what is happening within the sector are clearly aware of the dramatic changes which have taken place in the past number of years and the associated pressures. A tremendous amount of work has been done by the current Government in dealing with this changing environment. It requires ongoing effort and the Minister is committed to that. He has taken up his brief in a very efficient manner and is dealing with it in a most expeditious way.

The passage of the State Airports Bill last year was something the Opposition called for over a considerable length of time. The amount of work and consultation which went into that process cannot be undermined. The Opposition seems to think there is a quick-fix solution based on knee-jerk reactions that can be overlaid across the aviation sector in Ireland and that the problem can be solved overnight. I am delighted with the approach the Government is taking. It is consultative, involves all stakeholders and clearly recognises the changing nature of the environment within which it is set. Company law issues were identified in the State Airports Bill as were issues regarding financing, future funding and developments at the airports. These must all be taken into consideration and cannot be whitewashed in a knee-jerk reaction as expected by the Opposition.

This is happening against a backdrop of great change in the sector and in the economy. Senator Paddy Burke likened Dublin Airport to the airport in Lagos. I have not been there, but I was recently in an airport in Ghana which would also be referred to as a Third World airport. Facilities were not great but very few people were passing through the airport because of the state of the economy. Major problems associated with the growth in the economy have put great pressure and strains on Dublin Airport's infrastructure. The economy is thriving as a result of decisions taken by the Government to ensure the Celtic tiger continues to thrive. Issues relating to a thriving First World economy, not Third World facilities, have brought about some of the pressures and strains at Dublin Airport.

The decisions require widespread planning, careful consideration of all issues and a needs assessment of the airlines. It is critical that decisions are made in consultation with the airlines and stakeholders. We need to make the right decisions and the airlines are critical stakeholders. Senator Brian Hayes spoke about customers, but the airport's customers are actually the airlines. They dictate whether they will do business with the airports. Their needs must be assessed and catered for to ensure the growth in numbers travelling through and in the tourism sector. We cannot lose sight of that.

We must also consult with the workers because they have brought us to where we are now. They had a huge input during very difficult times in the economy and forgave and forwent all manners of conditions and pay increments to which they were entitled. They ensured the success of the airport and aviation sector. Their considerable contribution must be recognised in any changes.

Other people must also be taken into account, such as those who live in the region of the airport. The Opposition talks about expanding growth and installing new terminals and runways immediately. There are people in the greater Fingal area who believe there should be a cap on the number of passengers travelling through Dublin Airport.

The Senator should read the development plan.

I know the development plan, but other considerations must be taken into account. We must not steamroll or bully anybody. Perhaps that will be the Opposition's approach should it come to power. Perhaps it will build terminals on the back of certain proposals from private developers. However, one must do so in a consultative format which involves due partnership and planning from all concerned.

There has been much talk about an optimum solution for a second terminal. However, the issues are extremely complex. There must be careful consideration of all issues, some of which I have alluded to. There are issues in terms of whether it is private, public or a PPP and there are different agendas. Senator Paddy Burke seems to be advancing the case as put by the McEvaddy brothers.

I never mentioned the McEvaddy brothers.

The Senator spoke about the western area of the airport and since they own and control the land there is no doubt that it is a McEvaddy proposal.

Senator Dooley should read the report.

Notwithstanding that, there are many other proposals. Many of those in the private sector will have their own agenda which is about profit. I am not sure that it is necessarily about delivery of a service. Private companies are involved in the generation of profit whereas the State can be more focused on the delivery of a service because there is no profit requirement involved in what it does. Of course there is a necessity to provide value for money and facilities and services in line with the need.

The situation with regard to Shannon Airport speaks loud and clear in that regard.

We can have a debate about Shannon Airport at another time and I would be happy to advance the case in that regard. The State must have an objective of delivering a facility that will cater for the needs of the travelling public in a manner that continues to encourage growth which is critically important for a vibrant and active tourism sector in this country.

The Senator has one minute remaining.

The facility must be delivered in an efficient and reliable manner, one that will encourage the airlines to continue to operate through the airport. It must be cost effective and ensure the low-cost model which now pertains throughout the aviation sector reduces the cost.

The Mullarkey report has been mentioned in a very selective way during this debate. It refers to an independent and competitive terminal. However, it also states that in the medium term when there is an increase from €17 million to €30 million, there must be an increase in passenger charges in order to sustain the two terminals throughout that period. I am not sure the airlines accept this measure, which is a critical point that is being missed. The airlines are the airport's customers. One could not go to Michael O'Leary or the new chief executive of Aer Lingus and suggest an increase in charges at Dublin Airport.

If charges are not increased a situation will arise with regard to security. One must increase security levels to reduce the level of queuing, but who will pay for it? The traffic passing through must be able to pay for the facilities which is difficult because of the low-cost model. This must be done in a way that does not compromise security. I do not have time to deal with this aspect, but Senator Wilson will do so later.

The solution is not as simple as that proffered by the Opposition. There are very complex issues with which the Government is dealing. When the Government introduces its strategic plan for the future of the aviation sector with a particular reference to Dublin Airport, I have no doubt that it will be comprehensive, holistic and will look to future needs and plans; it will not be a knee-jerk reaction driven by some private agenda with a view to making vast sums of money at Dublin Airport.

We just want a decision.

With the permission of the House, I would like to share my time with Senator Quinn, perhaps in somewhat unequal proportions in my favour.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I congratulate the Fine Gael Party on tabling this timely motion. I was interested in what Senator Dooley had to say. I did not interrupt him because I have never heard anybody spend such a long time saying nothing. I did not want to give him the opportunity to waffle further.

The Senator succeeds in that regard on a regular basis.

I ask Senator Dooley to be orderly.

I thank you, a Chathaoirligh. I hope the Minister will not simply outline another catalogue of delays. It is staggering how long it has taken to make a simple decision about the second terminal at Dublin Airport. Senator Dooley spoke about the process being expeditious, ongoing, consultative and used all sorts of other words to describe it. He failed to point out that the real problem for the Government is sitting behind him in the person of Senator Morrissey. This is a defining issue for the Government. While it will not fall on the issue, deep ideological disagreements on the matter exist between the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, and between the two parties. They are paralysed. One wants to go hell for leather and place the second terminal in private hands and the other wants to do what Jack O'Connor and David Begg tell him to do. Those two objectives are absolutely irreconcilable, resulting in paralysis and delay. In the meantime, as pointed out by Senators Brian Hayes and Paddy Burke, we have unacceptable delays at Dublin Airport. We had a crisis with security last week, which was a direct result of the malaise and the kind of culture that exists in Dublin Airport at the moment.

I see no great hope of a decision on the matter. I can see the motivation. The Taoiseach wants this problem not to be resolved or certainly not to cause any more trouble before the next general election. All that matters to the Taoiseach are the half-dozen or so Fianna Fáil seats in north Dublin, which are dictating the fate of Dublin Airport. Otherwise what is happening would be inexcusable. Any excuses about the various decisions of the stakeholders and the consultation required are complete and utter rubbish. Senator Dooley may remember a Taoiseach from his party not long ago, Mr. Charles Haughey.

A decent man.

He was a decent man.

He had vision.

I agree he had great vision, which is my point. He had a great deal more vision on issues like this one than the current Taoiseach or Government.

The Opposition could not put him off quickly enough.

We made him an offer.

In 1987, when this nation was in a far more critical economic state than it is now, Mr. Haughey, whom no doubt Senator Dooley still describes as a decent man,——

—— had the vision to establish the IFSC. That decision did not take as long as it has taken to establish a second terminal at Dublin Airport. Mr. Haughey was able to make a decision on the IFSC and get it moving successfully within months, yet the Taoiseach has not been able to make any decision on this rather less important issue over three years. The reasons for this are simple — the seats in north Dublin and obsession with politics. It has nothing to do with any of the issues described by Senator Dooley. It has nothing to do with economics, finance or the consumers; it is to do with the seats. While the Senator can bamboozle people with figures until the cows come home, the sole objective is to hold the north Dublin seats.

Let us consider the people Senator Dooley claims need to be consulted. I would agree with him about one or two of them. Certainly it is now perfectly normal to consult the unions — I see nothing wrong with that. However, it is not perfectly normal to be dictated to by the unions or to do deals with the unions, which affect not only the second terminal, but also affect Aer Lingus. Senator Brian Hayes is right in saying that it is obvious that the deal is being done with these two semi-State bodies in mind. It is a single deal intertwining them. The people not being consulted are the businesspeople of the country while the trade unions are being consulted.

I understand the Senator is sharing his time.

With a certain amount of bias in my favour.

The Senator should not take all the time.

The Senator has had way too much time.

Businesspeople are not being consulted on this issue and they certainly deserve consultation, as they will put up the capital for the second terminal. Let us look at this from the point of view of the investor. What would an investor in Aer Rianta, now the Dublin Airport Authority, or in Aer Lingus do when considering this problem? A prospective investor considering the privatisation of Aer Lingus who saw the deal the Taoiseach is cooking up with the unions——

I remind the Senator that only eight minutes are allowed for him and Senator Quinn, and he has spoken for almost six minutes.

I will speak later.

Would it be acceptable for Senator Quinn to speak later?

That would be acceptable.

Considering these problems, what would a prospective investor in Aer Lingus do knowing the Government was fiddling around with it politically and without knowing whether it would have a chief executive?

The investor to which the Senator refers is not from the travelling public.

The Senator has more to say from a seated position than he had when he was standing up.

Senator Ross should have listened.

The Senator can waffle better from his seat.

Senator Ross can do it from both positions.

We cannot have verbal exchanges across the floor of the Chamber. We will hear Senator Ross without interruption.

What would an investor do? He would not know what the Government would do. He would see a split Cabinet and all sorts of special deals for the staff. He would be unclear as to whether he would get 49% or 51%. If it were to be 49%, the Minister can forget about it. He will not get anything like the value he expects. At the moment the shares are trading on the grey market at a level giving the company a valuation of approximately €350 million, which is a pittance. The Minister can be certain there is very little confidence in this one taking off.

What else would an investor consider? He would realise the airline does not have a chief executive and cannot get one because of the Government.

That is not true.

It is because the future of the airline is undecided. While the Minister may laugh, if the Government had made a decision it would still have Willie Walsh, who had to leave for various reasons. If the airline had a chief executive it might attract investors. However, the Government cannot get a chief executive because it cannot make a decision on the future of the airline.

The Senator's time is up.

The Senator's time was up before he started.

The future of the airline will remain in doubt as long as the Government refuses to take politics out of the equation. It needs to consider the economics and the value to the country of a decision, which it should make quickly.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to reiterate the commitment of the Progressive Democrats to the needs of consumers in the aviation industry. This debate should leave no one in doubt that the interest of the consumer is our foremost concern. In the past, discourse on aviation policy and infrastructure was dominated by engineering and planning issues. It is really about what is best for the travelling public. We cannot afford to waste any more of the public's time in driving reform in transport, and competition is the way to go. The Progressive Democrats continue to believe that innovation and competition should be fostered and rewarded. Competition is a dirty word for some people who incorrectly associate it with reduced services, job cuts and worsening conditions for workers and consumers.

The State and private forces must play a role in tackling the problems in aviation. Competition, when applied strategically, is the key to improving services and choice for the consumer. This is the goal which sets the Progressive Democrats apart from all other parties in the House.

The decision to break up Aer Rianta has been rewarded with new routes and lower fares for consumers. We have beneficial competition between airlines and, more recently, between airports. We also need beneficial competition within airports. Given that we have competition in the market to and from Dublin Airport, why not have it within it? An independent second terminal at Dublin Airport represents the best method of delivering competition and, as such, the best method of delivering benefits to the consumer. An independent terminal would rule out the involvement of the Dublin Airport Authority and Ryanair. Many expressions of interest were submitted to build a second terminal, including one from Ryanair. The company, like the Dublin Airport Authority, should not be considered because its proposal could well distort competition at the airport.

Proposals for the provision of additional terminal capacity at Dublin Airport are being considered by the Government. The best interests of the consumer must be uppermost in its considerations. New capacity will be required to cater for expected growth in passenger numbers at the airport. The detailed planning and implementation process will address the issue of the location of the next capacity increase and encompass all other relevant operational factors, including traffic management and access.

Public safety and security are of such importance that other issues become almost irrelevant. On Monday, 11 April officials carrying out an EU security audit managed to evade detection during security checks at Dublin Airport. I will cite part of the response issued by the Dublin Airport Authority to this abomination. In its statement it indicated it was "satisfied" that the safety and security of passengers had not been compromised and noted that the airport continued to operate "normally". In the context of my earlier comments, it is evident that the authority should be excluded immediately from operating any second terminal at the airport.

As well as serving to enhance a monopoly, it is obvious the authority needs to reassess how it manages that which is already under its control. If it is failing to adequately deal with current demand, why would anyone expect it to be able to cater for even more customers?

Contrary to the authority's statement that the airport continued to operate normally, passengers faced queues of more than 90 minutes to get through security at one stage over the weekend. Queues of hundreds of people circled the building, staff were forced to close the departure terminal to all but intending passengers for a time and many passengers missed flights as a result of the lengthy security delays. If this equates to normal operations in the eyes of the management of the Dublin Airport Authority, I shudder to think what would be a bad day at the airport.

The travelling public needs to be completely confident that its safety is being provided for to the greatest possible extent and EU regulations introduced to protect it are being complied with. As we know, much of the surveillance at airports is carried out by persons and machines. Those responsible for monitoring machines must be given adequate breaks and have their duties rotated to ensure their health and well-being are protected. This is an important factor in protecting customers of Dublin Airport and one on which I seek reassurances from the Minister.

Current forecasts suggest passenger numbers at Dublin Airport could increase to 22 million, which presents a considerable security task for the Dublin Airport Authority. It is obvious that if a review is instigated, it must specifically set out how the airport intends to address this issue.

I am glad the Minister contacted the Dublin Airport Authority after the recent audit uncovered serious security breaches at the airport. I understand officials met representatives of the authority the following day and were advised as to the measures taken to address security issues.

I return to my original point regarding the primacy of the needs of the travelling public. Security at our airports is paramount and must be taken seriously by Government. The Cabinet is waiting for the conclusion of the current security audit at the airport and will scrutinise its findings. The public must be reassured that the Government will take security seriously.

Aviation is a fast-moving, complex business which makes it a complicated policy area. Some simple facts remain, however, including that competition increases choice and reduces costs for consumers. We should have no part in sustaining or, worse still, creating new restrictive practices. Consumers need choice and enhanced, secure facilities. This should be our focus in the future.

I have no particular hang-up, based on daft ideological grounds, about the ownership of airports and other facilities, nor do I have an ideological hang-up that competition always produces better services. The example of the health care system in the United States should calm all those who get too carried away with ideology. The US spends between 14% and 15% of gross domestic product on health care but has the lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rates in the developed world. Its health system does not work. For those who can afford to pay for all they require, it is wonderful but as a provider of health services for consumers it is far from it.

I have no problems with competition and regard it as beneficial in many cases. The issue, however, is the necessity to protect those who are at work. We are observing in the courts the manifestations of a seedy, slimy form of competition involving people who could not speak English. While I do not wish to prejudice the case, if a quarter of what is alleged is true, it is the most unpleasant form of competition. Let us not, therefore, get carried away with competition and business efficiency.

I have always been intrigued by the first study of Aer Rianta's proposals to develop Dublin Airport. Commissioned in 1999, the Warburg Dillon Reid report took issue with Aer Rianta's forecasts on passenger numbers growth. A cursory reading of the findings makes clear that Aer Rianta's predictions were closer to what eventually transpired than the eminent and, I am sure, extremely expensive consultants. Wearing my engineer's hat, I am sceptical that anybody could forecast five years ahead with an accuracy of more than plus or minus 10%. The consultants claimed they could forecast better than Aer Rianta but got it wrong. The reason I make this point is that there is no single answer and it is the role of Government to act. Governments should not wait for all the issues to resolve themselves and deal only with what is left. That approach is about giving up as opposed to governing.

I do not need eminent consultants to tell me that Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is so far ahead of Dublin Airport in terms of service to customers that the two are beyond comparison. I recently flew from Amsterdam to Dublin and the difference between the appearance of the airports, service, accessibility, friendliness and everything else was an embarrassment for Dublin Airport. The reason has nothing to do with ideology or competition but is due to the quality of the people who run the service, their commitment and the willingness of those who fund the airport to provide funding in advance, rather than spending seven years in an ideological distorted dance with each other.

We have two Government parties, one of which has no ideology but wants to stay on good terms with a trade union that does and another which has an ideology which is totally irrelevant to the issue. The real problem is not what decision was taken but that no decision was taken. Our major airport is now grossly overcrowded, grossly underfunded and because of overcrowding, less than efficient. It may be efficient in terms of revenue per passenger, but in terms of the comfort of those who use it, it must be slipping rapidly down the European chart of desirable places to use airline services.

I have no idea what the outcome will be. I speak as a member of a party to which SIPTU is affiliated. Currently, SIPTU is vigorously opposed to privatisation of Dublin Airport. However, if a 15% share was put on offer to the members of SIPTU who work there, I suspect that a dramatic ideological conversion would take place overnight. I am supposed to defend both positions, but I will not do so. If this starts a row between the Labour Party and SIPTU, so be it. Fundamentally, it is not a question of ownership but a question of the rights of those who work there to be protected, no matter what the ownership system might be, provided the workers do the job they are supposed to do. However, the fundamental problem is that we now have an ideological stand-off between two Government parties. One of the parties, whose position has been articulated with clarity and consistency by Senator Morrissey, believes contrary to evidence, that the way forward is through competition. For example, there are three major airports around London, namely, Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow. Stansted is the growth airport.

There are actually four airports, including London City Airport.

There is also the city airport. I beg the Senator's pardon.

Senator Ryan should be permitted to speak without interruption.

In spite of the fact that Stansted is a vigorously competing airport, airport charges in Heathrow are extremely high. If one books a return air fare from Cork to Heathrow to travel next August, as I happen to have done recently, the air fare is actually €9 with Aer Lingus. However, the ticket costs €54. The charges come to €45, most of which are incurred in Heathrow.

I wish the two Government parties would abandon their dances with various partners and abandon a nonsensical ideological position that is not based on objective evidence. We should get a plan to give our capital city an airport which works. The sight of two parties staring at each other and setting out their aims separately reveals a level of incompetence that should be resolved after eight years in Government together. The Government parties should learn to work with each other as they have been practising for long enough. The people of this country and city are the victims of the inability of the Government to make its mind up about a fundamental issue.

I welcome this debate and the opportunity to set out the position regarding important matters concerning Dublin Airport. I hope Members will view the fact that I have come into this House as a mark of my deep interest in this debate and of my commitment. As a general point,I wish to make it clear that despite some comments that have been made in this House, to defer or deflect decisions concerning Aer Lingus or the terminals at Dublin Airport is not a sustainable position.

The Government has been in power for seven years.

Senator Ryan should let the Minister speak without interruption.

I am responding directly to an accusation that was levelled. Moreover, it is not the view of any member of the Government, irrespective of position, that this is a sustainable position. I wish to put on the record of this House that all within the Government are ad idem on the view that I have stated, that decisions on these matters are of the utmost importance and must be made shortly and with absolute clarity. That is my position and I have stated it consistently since I came to office six months ago.

It is also important to reflect, for those who suggest that nothing has happened in this area, that the break up and separation and the provision of independence and autonomy to the three key airports, namely, Dublin, Shannon and Cork, is significant and singularly important in the development of not only the airports themselves but of tourism and passenger numbers into this country. That took place in 2003. The Minister for Finance and I await and hope to see the completion of the airports' business plans shortly.

Parallel to that process, we are positioning ourselves to make a decision on a number of issues pertaining to aviation policy. These are my strongly-held views. I do not have an ideological view on this and it would be fundamentally flawed to take a view based on ideology alone on any particular issue. That approach would not deliver, no matter what side of the argument one might be on.

It is the policy of the Government to encourage as wide a range as possible of reliable, regular and competitive air services to and from Ireland. The central tenet of this policy is the belief that a strong, competitive and efficient network of air links is vitally important for developing our trade and tourism sectors, particularly having regard to our island status and peripheral location.

As Members are aware, passenger traffic through Dublin Airport is expected to grow from last year's level of over 17 million passengers to approximately 30 million by 2018, although I suspect the higher figure will be reached more rapidly than that. New infrastructure capacity and facilities, both airside and landside, will be needed to cater for this growth, including further terminal capacity.

Over the past decade, passenger traffic at Dublin Airport has more than doubled from 8 million passengers in 1995 to more than 17 million last year. This occurred in a relatively short timeframe. While the Dublin Airport Authority will continue to optimise the use of the existing terminal facilities in terms of growth, in the near term the time is fast approaching, indeed we have already reached it, when a decision must be made on the next tranche of terminal capacity so future growth at the airport will not be constrained. In this regard, the Dublin Airport Authority has already submitted a planning application for a second parallel runway to Fingal County Council.

In terms of access, inward investment, economic development and tourism generally, Dublin Airport is and will remain the metropolitan gateway to the State. Ireland's island status creates a greater dependancy for the country and a much greater requirement for adequate modern airport infrastructure, with associated air services, than for other European countries with significant land borders. It is also noteworthy that the national spatial strategy has acknowledged that the expansion of the level of air services from Dublin Airport to a wider range of destinations is essential in the interests of underpinning Ireland's future international competitiveness. Notwithstanding the welcome increase over recent years in traffic at Shannon and Cork airports and indeed at some of the smaller regional airports, Dublin Airport will remain crucial to the national economy as a vital strategic component of national infrastructure.

For this reason, there are two crucial issues guiding the overall consideration of how further terminal capacity will be provided at Dublin Airport. We must ensure the continued overall operational integrity and strategic development of Dublin Airport to meet the needs of current and future users of the airport, both airlines and passengers. Airlines are a serious customer of the airport, and are as important as passengers. It will also be necessary to ensure that additional terminal capacity is provided in good time to meet the growth in air traffic and that we do not allow new bottlenecks to develop in our strategic national transport infrastructure.

Subject to these two guiding principles, I will bring proposals to the Government very shortly concerning this matter. The Government's objective will be to ensure the provision of terminal capacity on an efficient, cost-effective basis.

Once the Government makes a decision regarding this matter, the detailed planning and implementation process will address the issue of the location of the next tranche of terminal capacity and all other relevant operational factors, such as general access and the management of traffic, both airside and landside, at the airport.

As I stated earlier, the Oireachtas passed the State Airports Act last year and pursuant to that Act, the new board of the Dublin Airport Authority took office on 1 October 2004. That new board brought together people of the highest calibre and expertise in business and aviation who have the commitment and the vision to address the challenges surrounding the delivery of enhanced infrastructure and facilities to meet projected growth at Dublin Airport.

The State Airports Act 2004 also changed the remit of the Commission for Aviation Regulation. The latter is now obliged to balance economic efficiency, the reasonable interests of existing and future users and to ensure the airport's financial sustainability in a way that would promote its long-term development.

The CAR is now well advanced in drawing up a new airport charges cap for Dublin Airport, which must be completed no later than 1 October 2005. The regulator has indicated that he will publish the draft determination on 6 May next. Under the legislation, the commission will then give an opportunity to interested parties to state their views on the draft determination before reaching a final view on the scope of the determination.

Regardless of who owns the infrastructure at the airport, there is a need to achieve a commercial return on investment. Terminal facilities and runways are costly and, ultimately, the users of the airport must pay for them. It is the job of the regulator to be satisfied that the commercial rate of return given to the airport authority is reasonable.

Arising from the existing comparatively low price cap at Dublin Airport, the DAA is acutely aware that it has to focus on its cost base and achieve efficiencies and show that capital expenditure is planned and carried out efficiently. To show that capital expenditure on infrastructure in planned efficiently and is responsive to user needs, the authority will continue to consult with stakeholders on the design and specification of future infrastructure facilities.

In recent years, the low-cost airline market has led to a dramatic increase in passenger numbers at the airport, accounting for over 50% of all traffic at present. This is a larger market share than many peer airports elsewhere. It is also important to point out that the charging regime at Dublin Airport is among the lowest of European airports. Somebody must be doing something right to be in that kind of sustainable position. The management and workforce must be doing something right. It is wrong to suggest that everything is going wrong at Dublin Airport. The mythical portrait of Dublin Airport painted by some people who have vested interests completely distorts many of the good things about the airport. I am not suggesting that it is run in the best and most cost-efficient way in its entirety. However, it is a long way from the manner in which it is presented by those who seek to undermine it.

The regulator will set the cost base on all of these issues, whether the airport is owned by a private sector operator or the public sector. Any private investor in any facility will look for a substantial return on his or her capital deployed. At the same time, the airport must continue to have the operational flexibility to cater efficiently for the requirements of the long haul and charter markets which would have different expectations about service level standards, particularly in terminal facilities. This challenge requires the airport authority to try to achieve stakeholder consensus on matters such as the use of air bridges and comfort requirements for the range of passenger categories, including families and older people, transiting passengers or passengers embarking on a transatlantic flights.

The challenge for the DAA is to continue to plan and develop the airport so the variety of its customers benefit from infrastructure service levels that strike the appropriate balance between cost effectiveness and comfort for those using the airport. As a policy maker, the State must decide on a future framework for the provision of terminal facilities at the airport that ensure that both the location and operation of such terminal capacity are in keeping with the optimum development of an efficient Dublin Airport. I expect to announce the Government's decision on that framework shortly.

I now wish to turn to aviation security matters. Security at our airports is paramount and is taken very seriously by this Government. We are committed to ensuring the highest standards of security at all our airports. Aviation security is a complex business. It comprises a range of technical, procedural and human measures designed to protect crew, passengers, ground personnel, aircraft and facilities of an airport against unlawful interference perpetrated on the ground or in flight. It involves layers of measures, some overt, some covert, but which taken together maximise the protection of civil aviation.

Our aviation security policy is based on the requirements set down by the European Union, the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the European Civil Aviation Conference. In accordance with these requirements, my Department has established a detailed framework and guidelines on the measures and procedures to be implemented by all of the entities involved in civil aviation security at the airports and other locations.

The terrorist events of September 2001 led to a major review of civil aviation security globally and to greater co-ordination and co-operation at that level. As anyone travelling by air since then will be well aware, the security regime at airports changed dramatically worldwide. In an EU context, a new regulation establishing common rules in the field of aviation security for member states was adopted. The guiding principle at all times of all the requirements and regulations is the security of passengers.

The new regulation has resulted in fundamental changes to aviation security involving the putting in place of new measures and procedures principally by airlines and airports to enhance and strengthen security arrangements. The requirements of the EU have been incorporated into my Department's national civil aviation security plan and this has been made available to all relevant entities. I understand that at the national level, airports and airlines have responded positively to the increasing demands placed on them relating to security and have co-operated in implementing changes since 2001.

As the House is aware, there was a recent European Commission inspection of Dublin Airport. Dublin Airport and other airports in the State are subject to frequent audits and inspection by international organisations such as the European Civil Aviation Conference, the US Transportation Security Administration, foreign airlines and other governments. My Department also conducts regular security inspections and tests of aviation security facilities and operators at Irish airports. While all audits raise issues which must be looked at, no significant issues have been raised regarding Dublin Airport by these audits.

The recent inspection by the European Commission was the first by that body at an Irish airport and was intended to establish the compliance by Dublin Airport and airline operators with the legal requirements set down in EU Regulations 2320/2002 and 622/2003. Officials from my Department accompanied the inspectors during the course of the inspection. Similar inspections have been conducted by the European Commission at other airports in the European Union over the past two years since the adoption of the regulations.

At the completion of the inspection, officials from my Department and the DAA received an oral briefing on the findings of the inspection last Friday. In accordance with established procedures and practice, my Department, the European Commission or the DAA will not be making any comment on the specific outcomes of the inspection. A formal report will be sent by the European Commission to my Department in due course dealing with all relevant issues. This is a confidential report and will not be published.

As the House is aware, during the course of the inspection, a number of controlled tests were undertaken by the inspectors to test the various security arrangements around the airport. Some of these tests breached key security arrangements. Department of Transport and DAA officials were on hand to ensure all appropriate action was taken and that any security breaches identified were immediately addressed. Specific remedial measures were implemented by the DAA and I was furnished with a report from the authority on the measures taken. I wish to state categorically that no explosives, detonators, guns or live ammunition were used during those tests. Media speculation that such items were used is totally unfounded.

Let me assure the House that I am determined that any deficiencies identified during the inspection will be remedied. Apart from the immediate remedial actions, I have instructed my officials to prepare an action plan in response to the Commission's findings. This will be done in consultation with the airport authority, airlines and other entities. I am determined that there will be a consistent and comprehensive application of security measures at all airports. I expect that all relevant operators will fully engage and co-operate with my Department to ensure that this is achieved.

The House will recognise that the nature of security precludes detailed discussion of measures. Therefore, I will not disclose the nature or extent of any security measures that have been implemented or the nature of any additional measures that are under consideration. However, I am satisfied that the Dublin Airport Authority responded effectively and immediately to the deficiencies identified during the tests.

Recognising the serious issues that were identified during the inspection, an extraordinary meeting of the DAA board's sub-committee on security was convened on Thursday, 14 April to review the issues. The board's sub-committee approved proposals for the appointment of an internationally recognised security consultant to undertake an urgent examination of the security systems and procedures of the airport. I was made aware of this and fully support that an international expert to benchmark against would be available to the DAA to go beyond its own expertise. I will ask the chairman to report to me on the outcome of this examination as soon as the information is available.

A special meeting of the Dublin Airport security committee attended by senior managers from relevant organisations was convened on the morning of 20 April at the request of my Department to review the findings of the EU inspection and to ensure that all operators comprehensively implement approved security requirements. Representatives from my Department and the Garda Síochána were in attendance.

I have asked that an early meeting of the National Civil Aviation Security Committee, NCASC, be convened to review the findings of the EU inspection and to address any issues arising from it. The role of the committee is to advise the Government and the civil aviation industry on security policy for civil aviation, to recommend and review the effectiveness of security measures and to provide for the co-ordination of the various interests involved. The committee is composed of representatives of Departments, Aer Rianta, the airlines, the Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, An Post, Customs and Excise, the Irish Aviation Authority and the Irish Airline Pilots Association, IALPA. An assistant secretary from my Department chairs the committee. Any advice from the NCASC will be taken into consideration in the action plan to which I referred.

It is not only airport operators who have aviation security responsibilities. Airlines are obliged to comprehensively implement a range of approved security measures and procedures. There were significant failures in this regard. The problem was not just within the airport. Being aware of the specific details, there was an equality of failure, which is worrying. However, the response from all involved on both sides has been positive in putting matters to rights. Officials from my Department convened meetings with the airlines during the course of the inspection to ensure their full and proper implementation of security measures.

My Department has been in touch with other airports in the State concerning full implementation of security measures, which answers some questions raised with me by Senator Dooley and others. All operators have responded positively and my Department will be keeping the situation under review.

I will address the issue of delays that have resulted from the increased security arrangements at Dublin Airport. The DAA is monitoring passenger movements and controls to minimise inconvenience and delays and is liaising closely with the airlines. Passengers can make an important contribution to easing the workload of screeners by minimising the volume of hand baggage presented at the screening points and by co-operating with the screeners' instructions.

Hear hear.

Airlines can facilitate the movement of passengers through earlier opening times and greater numbers of check-in desks. It is not enough to have the Dublin Airport Authority ask passengers to arrive two hours earlier if the airlines do not open their desks to facilitate passengers. The ball is on both sides of the court for everyone to play fair and not to seize on opportunities to lay the blame in one place. An efficient airport has many stakeholders to maximise its cost effectiveness and its ability to serve its passengers well. I appeal to both sides to co-operate during peak times of passenger transit and security checks.

I am concerned with the delays at the airport I saw on my screen. There is no question that these are unacceptable. Nobody wishes to sustain such a situation for passengers and I am glad to see that all sides are moving to correct it. People must be aware that if they come to the airport on time they will generally get through efficiently. Everyone arriving late with too much baggage under their arms is unacceptable.

The DAA has advised me that it will maximise the use of existing facilities and will endeavour to efficiently manage airport processes to cope with the increasing passenger numbers passing through the terminal. It is also reviewing the level of staff resources available to effectively manage the situation. An additional 60 screeners are in training. Of these, 20 will come on stream later this week, a further 20 will have completed their training within the following two weeks and the remainder will have completed their training in four weeks. The availability of additional screeners will allow greater operational flexibility in rostering and dealing with peak passenger periods.

I acknowledge the work of security staff at our airports who endeavour to carry out a range of tasks to the highest standards in a complex and pressurised operating environment. Effective security demands consistent application by staff of the required security measures. I am committed to ensuring the highest standards of aviation security at our airports and will ensure that the lessons learned from the EU inspection will be taken on board. In regard to Dublin Airport specifically, I will be ensuring that the security issues are addressed in co-operation with the relevant parties so that there is full confidence in our arrangements and that they are managed in such a way as to minimise passenger disruption.

The Minister will agree that Dublin Airport is not just the heart of Ireland in terms of economic growth but the heart and lungs of the country. As a former member of Fingal County Council for many years, I am aware of how important the airport is to the eastern region and to Ireland as a whole. Fingal and the wider area has grown and has developed many companies in the vicinity of Dublin Airport and Dublin's tourism industry has grown because of it.

As the Minister mentioned, 17 million passengers used Dublin Airport in 2004. We expect that number to grow to 30 million by 2018. This is good for the country. In order to sustain this airport and the economic growth in trade and tourism, we must ensure Dublin Airport grows with development and the increased numbers. This growth should be planned and dealt with in a timely fashion but that has not been the case to date. The Government promised that it would assess the need for a second terminal in Dublin as part of its programme for Government in 2002. How long will it take? I accept the Minister's statement that he wishes to bring proposals to Government shortly but it is taking far too long.

The previous Minister asked for expressions of interest in 2002 and received 13. I do not know why a decision was not taken based on these before now. A number of reports, including the Mullarkey report, assessed them and reported problems with the sites identified by the DAA. I will cite Fingal County Council's development plan. It recommends that a site to the west of the existing terminal would be the best option. This is not the DAA site.

I will not get hung up on questions of ownership and do not believe any Member should. We must search for the best site and examine what is best for the airport. If we muddy the waters with issues of ownership, such as sites owned by the DAA or the future of Aer Lingus, we will not make decisions based on the best interest of the growth of Dublin Airport. We must examine the wider picture.

I am not hung up on ownership but believe in competition. I see a role for the DAA in the future. I do not understand why it could not develop a site to the west of the airport which is in private ownership at present. That site could then be vested in the Dublin Airport Authority but run by an independent operator. That could give us the best of both worlds. I would like such a venture to be considered. We should avoid monopolies at all costs and introduce competition. That is what will deliver growth at the airport, result in an increase in the number of people visiting this country and deliver the low cost airlines.

It is important we deal with this issue quickly. We want to sustain the airport. As many speakers have said, the situation at the airport is unacceptable. One would not see the likes of the overcrowding and the appalling situation at carousels when one is trying to get baggage after a flight anywhere else. The situation is even worse than that which one would see in the Third World. There is a need for urgency in respect of this issue and that is why I support the Fine Gael motion and reject the Government amendment.

The issue of security, which the Minister addressed, has caused much concern among the users of the airport. It is important the Minister restores confidence among the travelling public so people know that when they go to the airport or step on an aeroplane, they are safe. In light of recent terrorist attacks, people are cautious and worried about travelling on aeroplanes. It is, therefore, important people are reassured and that the Minister ensures safety measures taken at the airport are of the highest standard. What we witnessed last week was bizarre and would be funny if it were not as serious. I accept the measures the Minister will put in place will address that problem. I am surprised the audits, which the Minister said are carried out regularly, did not highlight the failures which showed up last week during the tests. The delays at the airport and the fact people are missing flights does not inspire confidence. I hope those issues will be addressed quickly.

I wish to share my time with Senator Kitt.

I welcome the Minister and his officials. I agree with Senator Terry that Dublin Airport is very important not only for Dublin, but for the eastern region and, indeed, the country. I am delighted to speak on the Fine Gael motion. As the motion tried to do, it is easy to focus on the current delays at Dublin Airport and to blame the Dublin Airport Authority and the Government which appointed it. I have spoken to people who faced the queues at the airport, which we all saw on the news. There has been chaos at the airport over the past week or so, particularly at peak times, as a result of the EU audit whereby a fake bomb and a number of other dangerous implements which should have been detected got through security. It is not good enough that they were not detected but that is not the fault of the Government, the airport authority or the overstretched and tired employees at the security check.

These delays are the result of thorough security arrangements. I would be very concerned if travelling on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to America or on any other flight, internal or external, if I was able to walk through security without any checks or examination. Nobody likes to queue, whether in the supermarket or on the way in or out of Croke Park, but it is a fact of life. The existence of queues is a reassuring sign in the context of airport or airline safety. We have all gone through airport security and wondered about the need for such examination. However, it is there to ensure air travel is safe for travellers.

For many of the people working at our airports and elsewhere, it is a difficult and, in many cases, a thankless job. On many occasions, employees are the subject of abuse and smart comments. They have an important responsibility and the travelling public must treat these important employees with the respect they deserve.

We have all heard stories about nightmare delays, problems caused by missing flights, etc., but this is not entirely the responsibility of the Dublin Airport Authority. The airlines in question must carry some of the responsibility. The airport authority asks people to arrive an hour and a half or two hours early to check in, which they are doing. However, they are not always facilitated by the airlines in question as they are not providing extra personnel to deal with people who arrive early to check in and this results in considerable queues at security checks.

There seem to be many experts on airports, airport security, etc., but I certainly would not claim to be an expert, particularly in regard security. On 13 April 2005, the Ryanair deputy chief executive officer, Michael Cawley, confirmed that airline's full confidence in security procedures at Dublin Airport. He stated:

As the largest airline operating at Dublin Airport with over 24,000 departures per annum, we have many complaints about facilities at the airport, but none about its safety or security. In our experience the security procedures at Dublin are among the best in Europe and compare favourably with any of the other airports to which we operate.

He is an expert and deputy chief executive of one of the largest airlines in this country, so I rest my case.

I welcome the Minister of State. I am glad to speak on this motion. Unlike other speakers, I am not hung up on ideology, although I think everybody has to say that, nor am I concerned about ownership. However, it is important there are improvements at Dublin Airport, to which this motion mostly relates. I do not like the word "terminal" but I suppose it is the only one we can use to describe what we are looking for here. It is most important there is an efficient cost-effective base and the commercial rate of return about which the Minister spoke.

I was very interested in the debate on security at Dublin Airport and, indeed, in the regional airports. My first reaction was to ask, why are more people not involved in screening? However, the Minister dealt with that question. It is important there are extra screening areas. As in the United States of America, there is no reason people could not be interviewed in order to get details in regard to their flights, even if they are in a queue.

As the Minister said, since September 2001 and the terrorist attacks, there have been many difficulties in regard to security. Anyone who has travelled in the United States will know of the difficulty there. I know from having travelled in the Middle East in recent years that it is even more difficult there. If we go to the extreme whereby people must take off their shoes and sometimes their belts and braces, then they will not be interested in travelling. One wonders why we cannot deal with this issue in some other way. Speakers have said we must think of the customers first and there should be a better way to deal with this issue.

It is interesting that passengers are being asked to be at Dublin Airport 90 minutes before flying. That has been the case at the airport for some time. The regional airports also advise that one should arrive 90 minutes before boarding. There are twice daily flights from Galway to London City Airport, which boasts a 20 minute arrival time before checking in. If one goes to the Aran Islands from Galway one is required to arrive only 15 minutes before departure.

There will be competition and we have to be aware of it. This is happening at a time when travel is popular. Today's newspapers refer to the increase in the number of elderly who are travelling. I applaud and welcome that but if we go to the extremes outlined in this debate, travelling will be made very difficult. While there must be security, the airlines have a major role to play. I do not see why they would not undertake an audit, given that the European Union has done one which has been well reported.

It is interesting that Galway has the fastest growing airport in the country. I welcome the fact that it is putting security in place. Airport officials in Galway say that if there is to be extra security, which they would welcome, it will require greater expenditure and there will have to be greater co-operation from the public. The airlines have to play their role in security matters as well as the EU auditors.

I wish to tell a story about arriving in Shanghai Airport in Singapore a few years ago. The plane on which my wife and I arrived landed at the same time as two other jumbo jets. I looked to the left and to the right and said we would be at the airport all day. As we came to the immigration department I was impressed that every seat was occupied. There was no delay. The immigration authorities who questioned us were friendly. They asked what was the purpose of the visit and told us to enjoy our stay. I said we would have to wait to get our bags. When we got to the luggage area I was impressed that our bags were there before us.

When we got to the customs officer, who was a strong tough lady, she asked if I was aware that the death penalty existed for the importation of drugs into Singapore and if I had any. The answer to one question was "Yes" and to the other "No". I had to make sure I said "Yes" and "No". She examined us carefully and let us through.

When we got to the hotel the staff was waiting for us. When we required a driver he said he would be back in two minutes. We waited and he got his car. When we got into the car he asked me to tell him about our experience at the airport. He inquired about the immigration department. I described it and he said, "Good". He asked if our bags were at the luggage area before we got there and I said they were to which he responded, "Good". He asked about customs and I told him. He said we may have noticed that when he picked us up he did not pull up at the kerb but waited until we arrived and there was no delay.

He said that last year Shanghai Airport came second to Schiphol Airport in the competition for the best airport in the world and it was determined to win this year. The areas where they lost marks were in those I have mentioned. For example, when drivers came to pick up their passengers they double parked and treble parked and there was a delay. The people of Singapore agreed not to double park. They wait for their passengers and then pick them up. One may ask why I am relating that story. It shows the commitment of the people of Singapore to win that competition and they won it. They have won it practically every year since then.

I am taking pains with this issue because we have to achieve what has been achieved at Shanghai Airport. If we can manage to take a national pride in Dublin Airport which is the main gateway to this country, that would be the solution. Responsibility for that rests with the Government, the Taoiseach and the Minister.

We are not proud of Dublin Airport and what is happening there. Irrespective of who owns it and whatever the commitment, the real answer is to create that pride. It is capable of being created. The onus of responsibility to do so rests with the Government and the Minister. There is no point in blaming unions or ownership. Unless we achieve pride in the airport a valuable national asset will be lost.

Everybody coming in to Dublin Airport is a potential business investor, whether a tourist or whoever. I want to see a sense of pride coming into those who provide a service at the airport. It can be achieved but not if we delay, wrangle and do not take responsibility. It is in the hands of the Government and the Minister. I urge the Minister to immediately grab hold of that opportunity.

I welcome the Minister to the House. Schiphol Airport has been mentioned twice by Senators Ryan and Quinn. Listening to Senator Ryan one would think it was built only recently. Schiphol Airport has developed in a first-class manner. Dublin Airport modelled itself on it in many ways in the late 1960s when it was designed. It is a model of careful development that grew in proportion to the amount of traffic going through Amsterdam. By contrast, Dublin Airport is a disaster zone.

Hear, hear.

I will be voting with the Government so that Senators need not get too excited. Dublin Airport is an insult to those who work in it.

Hear, hear.

Those on the front line on security duty are being blamed for the security lapses. Even though Senator Dooley does not like if I disagree, I have to tell the truth.

He has to keep the Senator in her box.

Having worked in Dublin Airport on the building of the new airport in 1970, I speak from experience. I went in and out of it four and five time a week developing my business. The building, the flow of passengers and the manner in which luggage is dealt with is appalling.It is not the fault of the previous airport authority or the current airport authority but the Government that did not deliver on time a proper airport infrastructure. It cannot cope.

Approximately ten years ago, when I was a member of the council of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, I pushed for a second terminal. With vision, Casement Aerodrome will be developed as a second airport for those coming from the south. In our Government manifesto in 2002, we said we would proceed with a second terminal. We are talking about the Government acting on behalf of the taxpayers whose money is paying for Dublin Airport. It should get on with it and make the decision because it is holding back the image of our country abroad.

As Senator Ryan said, the pressure put on the architects and engineers who designed Dublin Airport is cruel. The original airport building, which was built in the 1950s, is a work of art and its design is perfect. The 1970 design of the new airport was first class but the manner in which it has grown organically is appalling. I came through the airport on Monday week and looked at the chaos and the flow of the passengers coming in. This has nothing to do with security but the lack of a concept about the design of the airport.

Having worked in the airport, I have a vested interest. That was where we grew our business because we had a captive market. The size of the terminal cannot deal with the 17 million people currently using it. It is a role of Government to plan for infrastructure——

Hear, hear.

——whether that is roads or airports or whatever. We should not only be concerned about the immediate development of the airport and the second terminal that should have been built five years ago but should also have plans in place for what will be required in five and ten years time. The same should apply to the roads. I am sick of this talk about ideology between Fianna Fáil and the PDs and I do not want to hear it any more.

Hear, hear.

I find it boring. I am not interested in it.

The Senator will have to raise it at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting.

I believe in Fianna Fáil which I joined because it was the most proactive development party in the country; I joined it for no other reason.

Where is the Senator coming from?

I was privileged to travel with Albert Reynolds to the United States and Japan. I saw he was a pragmatic man and that is why I joined Fianna Fáil. I had no ideology. I joined the party because it was supporting the development of the country. If I cannot achieve my proposals for child care I will not be coming back here because I have more important things to do and I do not want to waste my time.

There is room over here for the Senator.

I am here to make changes in society——

We like the Senator on this side of the House.

——and if I cannot achieve them I could not be bothered putting in the sort of effort I am putting in now.

We are a broadly-based party.

The two Government parties should stop talking about different ideologies and get on with it. I know the fine people that work in Aer Rianta very well. I support the division of the three airports because I know the outstanding people in Cork and Shannon and Dublin are entrepreneurial by nature.

The Government should make an overall governance decision on behalf of the taxpayers but keep out of the day-to-day running of the airport. With all due respect to the Minister of State and to officials commenting on the detail is not——

The Senator's time is up.

I do not wish to be derogatory but it is our business to allow harmonious development of the infrastructure, whether of roads or airports. We should not meddle. Fianna Fáil has a tremendous relationship with the unions.

I said the Senator's time was up one minute ago.

It was eight minutes too long.

I wish to share my time with Senator Feighan. I compliment the previous speaker on her comments. She shares the sentiments of the Fine Gael motion. I respect that she must vote with her party, as does every Member in this House, but she spoke a lot of sense.

This motion is about the future of Dublin Airport, the future of air transport and the future of the country. It must be conceded that to some degree Dublin Airport is almost the victim of its own success. The Minister's statistics were quite startling, showing a projected growth from 17 million passengers last year to 30 million by 2018. That is a phenomenal number of passengers using Dublin Airport. It will be necessary to plan ahead in a detailed fashion for the ever-growing numbers. Unfortunately, the current facilities are not sufficient for today's 17 million passengers and the quicker the second terminal is developed, the better.

Senator White summed it up by saying that the business of Government is to get on with the job, to allow the work commence on building the terminal and to worry about the ideology afterwards. There appears to be a difference of ideological policy between the Government parties, which is fair enough because that is politics but it is disappointing that the difference of political approach and ideology appears to be holding up a decision in respect of who will build what and where. The Minister, Deputy Cullen, gave an indication that we are moving towards a decision regarding who will be building the second terminal. Media reports today state that one of the private developers who was willing to invest has indicated he has been told on good authority — if the House will excuse the pun — that the Dublin Airport Authority will be given the contract. It is not a question of who does the job but rather of how it is done, where the terminal will be sited and whether it will provide the competition required.

Competition is an absolute necessity in the air transport sector. It has worked very well in making air travel affordable to the masses and it is required in the delivery of passengers and the provision of airport facilities. I hope the Minister of State and his senior colleague will ensure the final structure is not a one-man band.

On the issue of security referred to in the Fine Gael motion, the situation in Dublin Airport recently is untenable. Urgent action is required. There are times when the solution seems to lie in hiring more staff but this seems to be out of ideological favour. The security system at Dublin Airport is now so blocked up that additional personnel and facilities are required quickly. We cannot allow the current situation to continue.

I thank Senator Bradford for sharing his time with me. I agree with the decision to develop a second airport terminal at Dublin Airport. I suggest some improvements could be made now. I raised the issue of parking in this House. I parked my car at the airport for one day last week and the daily cost was €30. I was in a hurry and I parked at the terminal. The parking charges for my car were more than the flight cost. This did not include any extras such as car washing or valeting. I would prefer to use other car parks but I was in a hurry that day.

On another occasion I used the Aer Rianta car park costing €8 a day. On returning, I sat into the shuttle bus to the car park. The driver left the bus to deliver an item into the airport building. The second bus arrived and we remained waiting in our bus for 18 minutes. I made a complaint at airport reception but was informed that it was not their problem because these were private bus operators. This is unacceptable. The driver eventually returned and I was happy to get to my car. That driver's lack of service let down the Aer Rianta employees who give sterling service. There seemed to be no procedures in place to discipline him. Tourists were also waiting for service and were disappointed, as was I.

I compliment the Quick Park service. It is obviously independently operated and the cost is €5 per day. The service from Quick Park is much faster to the airport and represents value for money.

I suggest Dublin Airport take a leaf out of Knock Airport's book. The security personnel welcome the passengers home with a smile. Knock Airport charges a €10 departure fee and those of us in the west of Ireland are delighted to support the airport because that charge pays for the upgrade of vital facilities which are of significant benefit to the area. People will pay charges if they get the service.

I was concerned to learn that knives, replica guns and a replica bomb could be brought through security at Dublin Airport, especially when one considers that security staff were aware of the presence of 15 inspectors. Even in a heightened security environment, therefore, inspectors were able to bring such items through. The workers are not to be blamed for this but rather the procedures in place in the airport. The inspectors' findings represent a serious breach of security and such incidents should not take place again.

Fine Gael believes the Dublin Airport Authority should have some say in the development of a new terminal but that this terminal should have an independent operator. This is the approach that works in business and other related areas. I welcome the Fine Gael motion.

I propose to share time with Senator O'Toole.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I have represented the Shannon area in the Oireachtas for 32 years and have heard much talk about airports in that time. I am glad we are having this type of discussion because for far too long people in my constituency were worried about whether there would be any more flights into Shannon Airport. It was a case of seeking special concessions and devising other ingenuous means to attract airlines into the airport.

Today, however, we are debating a situation whereby airports are crowded with passengers queueing to get on flights. There is a thriving aviation industry and a thriving airport in Dublin. There are undoubtedly some problems with accommodation but it is preferable to endure such difficulties than to have Dublin Airport staff watching the sky in vain hope of the arrival of an aircraft as did their counterparts in Shannon in the past.

Hear, hear.

I do not want to lecture Members and it is unnecessary to do so. The stark reality is that Dublin Airport is crowded with business as more people wish to fly into and out of the country. It is inevitable there will be a strain on accommodation but there are several measures than can be taken to reduce that strain. It is obvious that Members who made reference to Third World airports have not been to any such facilities. I have seen them on my travels around the world in my 30 years in the Oireachtas, in various Ministries and as a member of several committees.

There has undoubtedly been a change in the security position in Dublin Airport and a clear slowing down of passenger traffic and throughput. For instance, a passenger travelling from Heathrow Airport to Dublin Airport with a connection to Shannon Airport, a journey I undertake regularly, could heretofore transfer within the high-security area from one gate to the next. Now, however, one must exit through the baggage hall, pass through the least secure part of the airport and re-enter as if one is a new passenger by undergoing all the security checks once again. In other international airports, as in Dublin Airport in the past, passengers making connecting flights do not have to endure multiple security checks. The sensible approach is to transfer such passengers directly to the gateway from which they will board their onward connecting flight. This speeds up the process because passengers can check in their baggage as far as their final destination at the beginning of their journey.

The system in Dublin Airport is archaic and was perhaps introduced at a time when there was not much business. The situation has changed, however, and I appeal to the airport security authorities to terminate the daft procedure by which passengers who are taking a connecting flight are obliged to leave and re-enter the departure area through the least secure section of the building. This is an unwarranted, time-consuming and frustrating process for both passengers and staff.

I ask Senator Daly to conclude so Senator O'Toole may have time to speak.

I was only warming up. However, I conclude by observing that it is a great day when we are debating a situation where we have more business than we can handle. I wish it were the same in other parts of the country.

I thank Senator Daly for sharing time with me. One of the problems with this debate is that everybody has their own ideological position to promote. I am well acquainted with Dublin Airport as I live beside it and many of my neighbours work there. I have visited many airports worldwide but have encountered only one in the past two years, Gerona Airport, in which free parking was provided. I returned to this airport, of which Mr. Michael O'Leary has often spoke, twice in the past three months and discovered that once it began attracting more business, those parking their vehicles were subject to a charge.

Parking in Dublin is expensive. It is amazing to hear people complaining about parking costs in the airport but passing no comment on the similar prices in locations across the road. It is a question of Dublin prices. If the Dublin Airport Authority were to provide free parking, there would be Members who claimed this was typical of the public service and its inability to make a shilling. The authority is charging €20 per day for parking because that is what the public is prepared to pay. This is what market forces and privatisation are about.

Senator Feighan observed that the quick-park facility costs €5 per day for long-term passengers while the short-term car park in the airport costs €20 per day. However, the long-term car park in the airport costs €5 or €6 per day. It is all about the market and passengers can choose the option they prefer. In the development plan for what we call the "Swords metro", my local authority, Fingal County Council, has factored in a large park and ride facility at Swords which will allow people to travel on the metro to the new airport terminal, if it is properly designed, having paid a quarter of the price to park their vehicles. This is the way forward.

With regard to security, Senator Daly is correct that it is very frustrating that passengers with connecting flights are obliged to undergo security checks more than once. However, the same situation pertains in Los Angeles, Heathrow, Stansted, JFK and so on. This is now international practice. If one travels to Stansted Airport with the airline owned by "Mr. Efficiency", Michael O'Leary, one must disembark the aircraft, collect one's luggage, walk half a mile to the end of the terminal, go through the check-in process and walk back again in order to take one's connecting flight. This is how Mr. O'Leary, the god of the private sector, manages the process in his operation. It is not his fault that it must be so but rather it is the security requirement. This is the reality. As Senator Feighan observed, the private bus operator which was to solve all our problems in Dublin Airport will not allow buses to depart until there are enough passengers to render such journeys economically viable.

We must recognise that this economic reality will also apply in the case of the new terminal. Services will not be cheaper. However, the Fine Gael motion is correct in its contention that the Government should have made progress on the new terminal. It is inexcusable that this has not been done.

Hear, hear.

Like Senator Daly, Senator O'Toole is only warming up. However, I must ask him to conclude as the time is almost up.

I shall conclude by outlining the main issues. First, if a new terminal is built, the number of security checkers per passenger will not be any more than it currently is because it would not pay for airport management to appoint more. Second, it is not the case that only one new terminal is required. This issue has caused such ideological conflict that one may ask why we cannot have a terminal for each ideology. Let SIPTU build one and Senator Daly's constituent in Ennis, Mr. Michael McNamara, build another. None of us will be concerned as long as there is a train link between the three terminals. The best man will win in this situation, just as it should be.

However, the motion is correct in urging the Government to take a decision on this issue.

Hear, hear. The Government should get on with it.

Such a development will create more jobs and more capacity. We must recognise, however, that it will not reduce the cost of parking in Dublin Airport or the security queues. Those responsible for building and operating the terminal will want to make a profit and will scale back their costs as far as possible.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Callely, to the House. If he were the senior Minister in his Department, I have no doubt a decision would have been made on this issue long ago.


Hear, hear.

There should be a reshuffle.

Passenger numbers will increase substantially over the next ten years. It has even been reported that there will be up to 30 million passengers by 2018. If we break that figure down, it means something in the region of an additional 30,000 passengers a week over the next ten years. The number of passengers has grown at a phenomenal rate, yet the Government is making no decision on the matter. It is standing idly by, week after week. The fallout will be that people will stop coming here and business and tourism opportunities will be lost.

Knock is doing well.

Knock is progressing and great credit is due to the management of that airport, which is run very efficiently.

That is good Fianna Fáil management.

As Senator Feighan has said, the car park works very well and efficiently at Knock International Airport. Senator Kitt said people only have to go to London City Airport 20 minutes beforehand to get checked in. Senator Quinn said that when he went to Singapore Airport, his experience was that everything worked very well and people went right through all the different stages in an efficient manner.

Did he go there to bring back the death penalty?

Senator Burke, without interruption.

The Minister of State said the level of staff resources is being reviewed to manage the situation effectively. He said that an additional 60 screeners are in training, 20 of whom will come on stream later this week; a further 20 will have completed their training within the following two weeks and the remainder will have completed their training in four weeks time. The availability of additional screeners will apparently allow greater operational flexibility in rostering for and dealing with peak passenger periods.

The Dublin Airport Authority states that it cannot guarantee additional security channels in the existing terminal. Several Senators from the Government side asked this evening why the airline desks do not open up earlier and let people through. What would happen if that were done? The terminal would be blockaded with passengers. We cannot have that. There is no question that additional screening facilities are needed. If 60 new screeners are to be provided, they are going to be working on top of each other at the screening points. Additional screening channels are needed immediately, and I cannot understand why the Minister of State did not say that in his speech. There is obviously a great need for additional space and for a new terminal. I am disappointed the Minister was not more focused this evening and did not tell us he will provide this as a matter of urgency. He just said the same thing this evening that he said six months ago, namely that a decision will be made in due course.

The Minister of State should contact the Taoiseach as a matter of urgency and ask him to act for once and for all on the issue. The needs are pressing. If it continues as it has done for the past few years, the situation will be a disaster for the country from the points of view of both tourism and business.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 18.

  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Dardis, John.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kett, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lydon, Donal J.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Mooney, Paschal C.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Walsh, Kate.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.


  • Bannon, James.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Henry, Mary.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Meara, Kathleen.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Terry, Sheila.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Cummins and Feighan.
Amendment declared carried.
Question, "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to", put and declared carried.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.