Cracks emerging in Government over future of Dublin Airport

Senior Green allies of Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan object to rising capacity at State’s main aviation hub

Cracks are emerging in the Government over the future of Dublin Airport as senior Green allies of Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan object to rising capacity at the State’s main aviation hub.

In a further sign of Coalition discord over the expansion the Fianna Fáil mayor of Fingal and seven party councillors have challenged a 7,000-page planning submission from airport operator DAA.

The DAA plan has prompted resistance from Sinn Féin, with TDs Louise O’Reilly and Darren O’Rourke making submissions questioning the proposal.

The State-owned DAA has cast the €1.5 billion plan as critical for national development, saying more capacity is needed to grow tourism, trade, investment and jobs in keeping with Government policy. But in interventions certain to raise questions for Mr Ryan, his Green colleagues Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman and MEP Ciarán Cuffe have objected to key strands of the proposal. Each of the party’s Fingal councillors and a Limerick TD also made objections.


Their objections are among some 360 papers published by Fingal County Council as it considers the DAA’s December application to raise the airport’s annual capacity to 40 million from 32 million. The push to increase capacity is in line with national aviation policy, with the 2020 programme for government committing Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens to “deliver” capital programmes required for aviation services.

The programme also commits the Coalition to support international action to cut aviation emissions in line with the Paris climate pact.

In his submission Mr O’Gorman said residents in his Dublin West constituency “will suffer an increase” in noise if plans to “sharply increase” passenger numbers go ahead. Mr Cuffe went further still, saying the expansion plan would cause a “significant increase” in harmful emissions. “During a climate emergency it is an act of folly to propose expanding airport passenger numbers by 25 per cent.”

The four Green Fingal councillors argued airport growth forecasts did not take account of climate action, saying the proposal was not in line with Ireland’s Paris commitments.

Citing “lopsided development” in favour of Dublin, Limerick Green TD Brian Leddin said the proposal went against planning measures to close the gap between the capital and regions.

Asked about such submissions, a spokesman for Mr Ryan said he could not and would not intervene in the independent planning process in any way.

“The Green TDs and MEP that have expressed opposition to the Dublin Airport expansion plans are not acting on behalf of Minister Eamon Ryan,” the spokesman said. “Public representatives are entitled to express their own views and opinions on issues, individually, or on behalf of the people they represent. Minister Ryan respects that.”

Although Fianna Fáil’s policy is to support airport growth eight party councillors said the expansion was “premature without Metro North in place”. However, the stalled Metro North project is years away from construction.

The submission from Fianna Fáil’s councillors – among them Fingal mayor Adrian Henchy – said: “There are no noise mitigation measures included in the application, and therefore the noise measures from 2007 remain in place which are outdated.”

Ryanair said it “fully supports” the plan. “The planning application by DAA was long overdue in the context of population growth, the evolution of international trade, and the demands both of the people of Ireland and DAA’s largest airline customers.”

Aer Lingus broadly welcomed the proposal, but added: “There is an onus on Fingal County Council to urgently reach an initial decision on increasing the passenger cap to avoid any impact on planned growth at Dublin Airport in 2025.”

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Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times