Defence Forces will 'step up to the plate' to assist at Dublin Airport despite misgivings

ireland
Defence Forces Will 'Step Up To The Plate' To Assist At Dublin Airport Despite Misgivings Defence Forces Will 'Step Up To The Plate' To Assist At Dublin Airport Despite Misgivings
PDFORRA's president Mark Keane said there are misgivings that members of the Defence Forces are being used as cheap labour to address Dublin Airport's staffing crisis. Photo: PA Images
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Vivienne Clarke

Updated: 10.30am

Defence Forces members will "step up to the plate", despite misgivings the personnel are being used as cheap labour at Dublin Airport, the president of the representative organisation PDFORRA has said.

Mark Keane told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland that his members wore the uniform which obliged them to serve, so they would be ready to do so.

Members of the Defence Forces always acted in the best interests of the State, he said, adding: "This will be no different."

However, he expresses concerned that his organisation had not been consulted about the plans to assist at Dublin Airport.

While Mr Keane accepted that being deployed was part of army life, in this case, the issue had been discussed repeatedly by politicians over the past few months and it was not unforeseen, so there could have been consultation about the details of the support.

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He added his members needed to know the nature of the deployment; the locations, the health and safety risks, and what would happen to their own duties.

There was already a shortage of people in the Defence Forces, he said, and deploying some to Dublin Airport could mean a greater workload for those back at barracks.

Mr Keane also questioned if the proposed six-week duration was fluid and what would happen to his members who had their own holiday plans.

The plan could cause a domino effect, he warned.

Precaution

Meanwhile, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton has said she hopes it will not be necessary for the deployment to go ahead, but the plan is there in case it was necessary.

Preparing the Army through training and certification was important, she said, in order for them to be standby in case of emergency so that people could make their flights.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Ms Naughton described the plans as an extra level of preparedness. She also acknowledged this was an unprecedented move and one which had not been taken lightly.

She added the move became necessary after the Government received a written request from the operators of Dublin Airport, the DAA, for assistance.

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"We, as a Government, would be remiss not to respond. I don’t want to see the Defence Forces deployed, but we have to prepare."

When asked about a proposal by People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy that the DAA rehire staff they made redundant during the pandemic, Ms Naughton said the authority was doing everything it could and that by the end of August they would have 480 staff in place.

This would represent an increase of 100 compared to 2019 levels, she explained.

Absenteeism levels due to Covid-19 were an issue at airports across Europe, Ms Naughton added, explaining the situation in Dublin was not unique.

She said the Government wants passengers to be enabled to make their flights on-time, adding that they will continue to monitor the situation.

Perspective

Ryanair's chief executive Eddie Wilson welcomed the plan, describing it as a "sensible contingency".

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He told RTÉ Radio's Today with Claire Byrne show that Defence Forces personnel were not going to be passenger facing, and it was not "a skivvy job" as had been claimed elsewhere.

The issue had to be looked at in perspective, he said. Things had improved at Dublin Airport in recent weeks, but it was sensible to have the Defence Forces on standby as a contingency. Other countries have a visible army presence at airports, Mr Wilson added.

Everybody was trying to help manage the situation – the airlines, the airport management, staff, the Government and the public, he said.

"Let’s do a little bit of planning here. It is the right thing to do."

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