Friday, March 03, 2023

Continued drone disruptions at Dublin Airport could have an impact on the planned visit of US president Joe Biden to Ireland, a spokesperson for the airport has said.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan met with Dublin Airport management and the Irish Aviation Authority on Friday morning after more flight disruptions caused by drones.

Ryanair called for the resignation of Mr Ryan after drone activity suspended flights at Dublin Airport for a short time on Thursday evening.

The airport confirmed that flights were suspended at 6.27pm “due to confirmed drone activity” in the vicinity of the airport.

Flights resumed at 6.59pm and the matter was reported to gardaí.

US president Joe Biden plans to visit Ireland in April to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, according to reports in the Irish Daily Mirror.

Graeme McQueen, spokesman for the airport operator DAA, told RTÉ that drones could cause disruption at any airport in the State.

“It could happen to any big event. But Joe Biden is potentially coming to the country. These are big events that drones could impact. So the sooner that we get legislation and the mechanisms in place to take drones down the sky, the better for everyone.”

When asked about the tone of the meeting with the Minister for Transport on Friday morning, Mr McQueen said the broad feeling was one of frustration. Drone disruptions were inconvenient for passengers, he said.

“What we heard in the message in the meeting today was a fresh commitment that we’re going to get to grips with this. The feedback we got this morning was that the Minister is absolutely going to make something happen and hopefully we can get rid of drones as an issue at Dublin Airport.”

‘Asleep on the job’

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said the disruptions were unacceptable, claiming Mr Ryan had “failed to take any effective action to protect Dublin Airport”.

He accused the Minister of being “asleep on the job”, adding: “He should now fix this issue or resign and let somebody more effective do the job”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Friday, Mr O’Leary said there is no need for legislation to allow the use of anti-drone technology at the airport.

He said Mr Ryan “just needs to empower” the airport authority. “He should make a decision to take drones down,” Mr O’Leary said. “Who’s going to sue him? The drone operators?”

He added: “[Eamon Ryan] just needs to act. If he is not prepared to act then he should resign and retire to the leafy suburbs of Ranelagh and worry about bicycles.”

Meanwhile, Labour TD Duncan Smith said legislation to deal with drone activity at airports could be passed within “a couple of days”.

Mr Smith, who represents the constituency in which Dublin Airport is located, told RTÉ’s Today show that everyone in the aviation industry, including workers and customers at Dublin Airport, wanted to see action on the issue.

“This can be done very, very quickly. It does not have to be a long, drawn out process.  We’re on course for St Patrick’s Day, which is the step change in terms of how busy our tourism and aviation sector is. So, you know, if this continues in this pattern, it will impact more people.” – Additional reporting: Vivienne Clarke

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