Eamon Ryan ‘asleep at the wheel again’ over failure at Dublin Airport to prepare for cold weather

Mary Lou McDonald hits out over chaos at airport as Taoiseach highlights need to make sure airport operator prepared for de-icing and extreme weather events

There has been real failure by the Government and the authorities at Dublin Airport to prepare for the cold snap, and “not a word” from Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan on the issue, the Dáil has heard.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused Mr Ryan of being “asleep at the wheel again” following the cancellation of some 20 flights to and from Dublin because of the bad weather today, and dozens more yesterday.

Before she raised the issue she wished Micheál Martin well in future, stating this would be their last exchange while he was Taoiseach. Mr Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will rotate their roles on Saturday in a special event in the Dáil and at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Ms McDonald said Christmas is the busiest time of the year for travel, with 1 million people expected to pass through Dublin Airport. She said passengers needed assurance that they will not face disruption during this period, adding that passengers are feeling a real sense of frustration and reported being sent “from pillar to post”.


The de-icing of aircraft “seems only to be an afterthought”, she said, adding Mr Ryan had failed to act during the chaos at Dublin Airport during the summer and “now it seems Minister Ryan is asleep at the wheel again”.

The Taoiseach insisted, however, that Mr Ryan is “wide awake”. He said the cold snap was responsible for the disruption. “Could I reassure the Deputy that Eamon Ryan is not asleep,” Mr Martin said. He added “he is anything but fast asleep at this particular juncture”.

The Taoiseach said a meeting with airport operator daa had taken place at the weekend and was attended by local TD and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.

He acknowledged issues with daa needed “to be followed through with the authority”.

“We need to make sure that capacity exists within the Dublin Airport Authority in terms of de-icing and preparing for extreme weather events to make sure that key connectivity through aviation is maintained.

“State agencies are established by law, are resourced and people are appointed to senior positions. There is an obligation on the agencies to be prepared and respond to situations such as this.”

However, he said other airports had been affected, including Manchester, and Heathrow Airport had significant challenges, some of which spilled over to Dublin Airport.

In a statement responding to the criticism, DAA Chairman Basil Geoghegan said “all runways and taxiways at Dublin Airport have remained open and fully operational” throughout the current cold snap.

“Whilst flight cancellations and delays over recent days relate to difficulties encountered by individual airlines de-icing their own aircraft or airports being closed in the UK, the Taoiseach made an important point today about the need for winter resilience.

“Such operational resilience is ultimately reliant on ensuring an appropriate regulatory and financial framework that recognises the critical role Dublin and Cork airports play in the Irish economy and global connectivity.”

Later the Taoiseach told Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore that the Minister for Transport had assured him that footpaths generally can be gritted.

Ms Whitmore said there was no provision for local authorities to grit paths and cycleways. She said parents were driving their children to school because it was not safe for them to walk. “And considering that the status policy of the Government is for active travel, is it now time to direct councils to ensure that high-priority footpaths are gritted.”

The Taoiseach said that “instructions have gone out to local authorities in terms of active travel”. He said that it was something they would look at again “because it is an important point in terms of safety for pedestrians and cyclists”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times