I thank the House for facilitating us in concluding this Stage of the Bill today and I thank everyone for their contributions. They echo a large number of the problems that were expressed in the Dáil. Everybody is very keen to represent the views of residents, which I greatly appreciate. It is a pity to hear people making accusations against the Minister and saying that I am not listening to the views of residents. I presume they are not aware of the fact that I have received numerous delegations of residents. To suggest that we have not listened to them at a very early stage is just misleading. The Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, has also been involved in a great deal of dialogue, as have my officials. We have at all times taken its views very seriously. The entire purpose of this Bill is to use a balanced approach to reconcile the obvious difficulties we have to bring together the interests of keeping the airport running - it is a vital piece of infrastructure - as well as not making the lives of residents more uncomfortable. It is difficult to square, but we have made the best possible efforts. This Bill represents many years of hard work to that end.
To those who were critical of the delays I say again that those delays were not of the Government's making but were created elsewhere. They may have happened for good reason, but I understand the frustrations people had because of these delays and the uncertainty that has been brought into their lives. We all recognise the contribution Dublin Airport makes to the national economy and the greater Dublin area and the fact that all parties are keen to see the airport thrive in a measured and sustainable way. That is what I am trying to achieve.
The balanced approach process, which is international best practice and endorsed by the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization and adopted by EU regulations, is being embedded into our own planning and development system. By doing so, we are establishing a consistent approach to the introduction of noise mitigation measures and operating restrictions associated with any development at Dublin Airport. The process is highly transparent and open. There is extensive information sharing and extensive stakeholder engagement and public consultation. All information consulted upon will be accompanied by a non-technical summary report which will allow any person who wishes to do so to participate in the process, to contribute and to challenge as he or she sees fit. There will also be continual monitoring of noise at Dublin Airport to ensure compliance with the measures and limitations that the noise regulator decides upon. It should be noted that the regulator has the necessary powers of enforcement. To my mind this is a fair Bill which takes on board the competing interests and rights of all stakeholders. It does not favour any one interested party over the other, it has strong transparency and public consultation and it has a strong appeals mechanism.
As I said in opening, this is complex legislation, but I hope that my statement today has brought Members some clarity around the process. In the time I have left, I will deal with some of the issues that have been raised. The main issue raised was the independence of Fingal County Council. I guarantee the House that I will deal with the rest of the issues on Committee Stage, when those who raised the issues today are here again. To reiterate, I totally and utterly reject the argument that there is a perceived conflict of interest from Fingal County Council because of the rate it receives from the DAA. Those who say the DAA pays commercial rates are correct, but I do not accept that this would somehow influence the council in its role as independent noise regulator. Any decision to be made by the council in this role will be evidence-based and fully in adherence with the requirements of the EU regulation. If it was anything other than this, it would clearly be susceptible to challenge under the appeals mechanism or by judicial review. Stakeholder engagement has been provided at every stage. Once Deputies have had a chance to examine fully each section of the Bill on Committee Stage, their concerns about any perceived conflict will be allayed.
Many people in this House and in the Lower House have second-guessed the Attorney General. The Office of the Attorney General, or the Attorney General himself, made a decision that the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, was not independent. The same office made a decision that Fingal was independent. We accepted the decision of the Attorney General in the case of the IAA with great reluctance because we were ready to press ahead. Similarly, when the Attorney General's office came to us with a finding on Fingal County Council that it was independent, we accepted that. Had I decided, as some members of this House wrongly want me to, that the Attorney General was wrong in the second case and foisted a noise regulator on the nation in spite of his advice, this House would rightly be criticising me. I would be told that I was taking a risk with a noise regulator that I had been advised was subject to legal challenge. That is not a decision I was likely to take, nor is it one I am going to take. Senator Mullen, as a lawyer, will understand that. If the Attorney General advises me on one thing and I take his or her advice, and then he advises me on another similar matter-----