Authorities in the United States have apologised to the Government after it emerged that its troops breached Irish Covid-19 regulations.
The Irish Examiner reports that more than 50 military personnel stayed overnight in a Limerick hotel after landing at Shannon Airport, without evidence of negative tests for the virus or completing passenger locator forms.
All international arrivals into the State are now legally required to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival, and to complete a passenger locator form.
The US Navy C40A aircraft, carrying five crew and 48 military personnel, arrived at Shannon Airport from Bahrain at 7.06pm on January 25th.
The arrivals spent the night in a Limerick hotel, before taking off for the US at 11.35am the following day.
The military personnel also left their hotel to purchase food during their time in Limerick, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney told Social Democrats TD Cian O'Callaghan in a parliamentary question response.
Mr Coveney said that An Garda Síochána alerted the US arrivals to the fact that they had breached Irish law, which happened "due to an error on the US side".
"Once informed of this breach of regulations by An Garda Síochána, the issue was raised with the US authorities, both through the US embassy in Dublin and through our embassy in Washington,” Mr Coveney said.
"The US authorities have undertaken a review of the circumstances which led to this breach.
"They have also confirmed that the passengers concerned were operating in a 'clean bubble', were tested repeatedly during the period they were deployed in the location where the flight originated and, following instructions by An Garda Síochána, self-isolated in a hotel in Limerick overnight, only leaving once to purchase food, while masked, before returning to Shannon Airport the following day to travel onward to their destination."
Mr Coveney said he had raised the “serious matter” of non-compliance with public health guidelines with the US chargé d'Affaires in Dublin, and had received apologies for the incident.
"We have emphasised to the US authorities that all landings must fully abide by the conditions put in place by the Irish authorities, including public health conditions,” Mr Coveney said.
My department and our embassy in Washington have received apologies
"The US authorities have assured me that this is understood and will not happen again.
"It is clear that the requirements of the statutory instrument, which came into effect on 9 January, were inadequately communicated by the relevant US authorities across the entire US government system.
"My department and our embassy in Washington have received apologies, both orally and in writing, from the relevant US authorities, including the US military authorities.
"The US side has recommitted to full compliance in respect of future landings."
Mr O'Callaghan said that the incident was symptomatic of the Government's “lax” attitude towards US troops landing in Shannon.
Edward Horgan of the Shannonwatch group, which first notified gardaí about the plane, said that a number of US flights have stayed overnight in the Shannon region in recent weeks.
He questioned whether the passengers on every flight had presented negative PCR tests.