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Eamon Ryan 'asleep at the wheel' during Dublin Airport 'embarrassment'

The Government has been accused of being "asleep at the wheel" at Dublin Airport, leading to a "national embarrassment".

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty made the charge to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan during Thursday's Leaders' Questions, saying that both Daa and the Government had been warned that a redundancy scheme carried out in 2020 would lead to a staff shortage at the airport. 

Mr Doherty said that "that's exactly what happened" at the weekend when 1,400 people missed flights due to lengthy queues at security.

Representatives from Daa appeared at the Oireachtas Transport Committee to assure politicians that this weekend will be better, but Mr Doherty said that he remained unconvinced by their assurances.

"I am not convinced by what the DAA had to say yesterday. The wait times it set out are still too long. The idea that passengers would be triaged into some sort of holding areas is embarrassing. 

"The fact that the airport plans to function with security staff levels at 70% of pre-pandemic levels is not acceptable. The Minister has been unable to give an assurance that we will not see scenes like we did last weekend. 

"Frankly, he has been asleep at the wheel right throughout this process only to appear last weekend."

Additional staff

Mr Ryan said that the airport's management had informed him on Thursday that an additional 100 staff would be recruited above what is being currently trained in a bid to make the summer months easier for passengers. He said that the original redundancy plan went "too far" and that plans for holding pens for passengers were only there for use in emergency situations.

"Too many workers were let go. That is clear now. But the critical thing that the Irish public wants to know is that the additional staff are put in place so that they can get through the airport without missing a flight and without being put through a triage system that requires them to stand outside the concourse. That is only there in case of emergencies."

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said the redundancy scheme was a "gun-to-the-head" move by management and DAA had "used the pandemic as cover for a restructure and to reduce costs".

Mr Ryan said that training new staff took time as "nothing was left to chance".