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Members of Defence Forces concerned about Cabinet approval of army standby for Dublin Airport

The president of PDForra pointed out that the Defence Forces are already short-staffed and this will increase pressure on members at barracks.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

REPRESENTATIVE GROUPS FOR members of the Defence Forces have expressed concern about the government decision to put the army on standby to assist at Dublin Airport. 

Yesterday Defence Minister Simon Coveney announced that the Defence Forces are to undergo training to assist security at Dublin Airport, following long queues in recent weeks.

The move received Cabinet approval follow a request from Transport Minister Eamon Ryan. It is expected that approximately 100 Defence Forces personnel will be trained up and allocated to Dublin Airport. Any personnel who are allocated to Dublin Airport will be paid an allowance by the Defence Forces.

A government spokesperson said yesterday that army personnel will not be used to staff the security queues in the airport. Instead, they would be on duty on the perimeter of the airport and outside hangers to free up capacity for airport security staff.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mark Kane president of the Defence Forces representative association PDForra, expressed concern about the lack of information provided by the government on how deployment to Dublin Airport would work.

“We need know know first of all when they’re deployed what roles they’ll be deployed in, how many will be deployed, what will be the nature of their employment – what will they do?” he said.

“At the moment we’re hearing this infamous thing that we will not be dealing with the public, so what are the roles? Do we free up other people within DAA [the airport operators] for them to do that role?”

He also questioned whether members of the Defence Forces would still be required to undertake their own duties if they were deployed to the airport.

“We’re short a great deal of people within the Defence Forces, to take another 100 or 150 out of that very small pool of people – that’s a greater workload again on the people left behind in the barracks just to maintain operational readiness and the battle rhythm and the operational tempo of the Defence Forces.”

Yesterday the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) also raised concerns about the decision to put the Defence Forces on standby.

General Secretary Conor King said the association is concerned that this is another example of the Defence Forces “being used as emergency cover to compensate for management decisions in other state bodies”.

He called for clarity in the roles that Defence Forces personnel would be undertaking at the airport, what the working conditions would be and how they would be compensated for the work.

“We must not ignore the recommendation of the Commission on the Defence Forces to end the ‘free labour aspect of military service’, which would be a further blow to morale in the organisation,” King added.

‘Short-term’

Minister Coveney has said that he agreed to Ryan’s request due to it being a “short-term emergency related contingency action” and says that it will not last longer than six weeks.

“Members of our Defence Forces will undergo an immediate period of training and stand ready to assist if the need arises. However, this support will be stood down in August when the busy holiday period has passed,” said Coveney.

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Following the announcement, DAA management reiterated its confidence in its current plan, saying 77% of passengers have queued for 30 minutes or less since it was introduced.

“Over the past weekend – which was the busiest Dublin Airport has experienced since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – 91% of the 50,000 to 55,000 passengers that departed Dublin Airport each day cleared security screening in less than 45 minutes,” a DAA spokesman said.

However, it said it outlined to the government that taking initial steps to facilitate the training of Defence Forces personnel would be a “prudent contingency” at this juncture.

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