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Defence Forces to be put on standby to assist at Dublin Airport security

Airport management says it has confidence in its current plan.

Large numbers of passengers as they progressed through a series of queues and holding areas in Dublin Airport
Large numbers of passengers as they progressed through a series of queues and holding areas in Dublin Airport

Updated Jun 28th 2022, 3:22 PM

DEFENCE MINISTER SIMON Coveney has announced that the Defence Forces are to undergo training to assist security at Dublin Airport, following long queues in recent weeks.

Coveney announced in a statement that the Cabinet had approved to train up Defence Forces members to assist security officials in Dublin Airport, following a request from Transport Minister Eamon Ryan.

The Defence Forces personnel will be on standby to assist if required but a government spokesperson has said the personnel will not be used in the security queues in the airport itself. Instead, they would be on duty on on the perimeter of the airport and outside hangers to free up capacity for airport security staff. 

Significant queues at the airport first began to emerge in early April, with the Government holding crisis meetings with the airport operator, DAA, on a daily basis over the queues.

In late May, there were calls from Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson for the Defence Forces to be brought in to the airport to tackle some of the staffing shortage.

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.

It is understood that Defence Forces personnel will be working in non-public facing roles and will be trained up to manage external gate posts into the airport.

It is expected that there will be approximately 100 Defence Forces personnel trained up and allocated to Dublin Airport.

Any personnel who are allocated to Dublin Airport will be paid an allowance by the Defence Forces.

“The DAA have given assurances that they will continue with their own recruitment and onboarding of additional security staff and the introduction of other mitigations during this period.” 

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.

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

“Once again the Defence Forces are turned to in the country’s time of need, and will undoubtedly step up as the State’s insurance policy. We are concerned however that this is another example of the Defence Forces being used as emergency cover to compensate for management decisions in other state bodies,” said RACO General Secretary Conor King.

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King 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.

Additional reporting by Niall O’Connor

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