Politicians back Fingal County Council’s ruling on flights

Local TDs from Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and Labour have welcomed the decision to restrict night-time flights coming in and out of Dublin airport

Eamon Ryan, Minister for Transport: a spokesman said it was up to Fingal County Council to enforce the planning conditions that were put in place at the time that the north runway was granted planning permission

If Ryanair and the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) were expecting politicians to be lining up to join them in condemning Fingal County Council’s ruling on night-time flights, then they will have been sorely disappointed.

“I am actually pleased that the council have put some manners on DAA,” Alan Farrell, Fine Gael TD from the Dublin-Fingal constituency, said.

“The bottom line is that for 16 years they have known their operating conditions and they have breached them. They haven’t just breached them a little bit, is what I am being told by the council. They are breaching them in a massive way.”

Far from condemning the decision of Fingal County Council, Farrell suggested Eamon Ryan, the Minister for Transport, should be shifting his focus to the DAA’s leadership team, and who was in charge of allowing these breaches to occur.

“But the corporate responsibility element and the fact that a state body has behaved in the way it has adds a different dimension to it as to the status of the management team. And also the question as to what the board knew and how much they knew,” Farrell said.

“If it was a private company, then fine, they would be chancing their arm. But there is more to it than that because they are a state body. The law is the law. For them to ignore the planning conditions is quite extraordinary.”

It is a view shared by most of Farrell’s constituency colleagues.

Louise O’Reilly, Sinn Féin TD, said the DAA were “well aware” of the planning conditions and the council are simply issuing an order to enforce the conditions which are in place as they do routinely where planning conditions are breached.

“For the DAA to pretend to be surprised stretches credibility since they’ve known the conditions since 2007,” O’Reilly told the Business Post.

“It is deeply troubling if the DAA think they’re somehow above the law, they are not and any fallout from this is down to the DAA and the DAA alone. Every airport in Europe operates under the conditions of their planning and Dublin airport should be no different.”

O’Reilly added that there were no new restrictions being applied, merely “an enforcement of the conditions which they should have been adhering to in the first place”.

Duncan Smith, the local Labour Party TD, added his voice to the chorus, saying he “welcomed” the decision by Fingal County Council.

"It is vitally important from a regulatory point of view that the planning authority bares its teeth in the face of planning breaches; no matter who is in breach or whatever their size,” Smith said.

“We are coming up to one year since the north runway opened and it has been a year of hell for many local communities.”

Darragh O’Brien, the Minister for housing, is also a TD in Fingal. However, his spokeswoman said that as minister with responsibility for planning, he can’t comment or become involved in any planning matter.

Speaking on Friday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also defended Fingal County Council, saying it had “no choice but to enforce the law” and that they were “right to do so”.

“But I think there’s a number of further steps that are yet to play out in this regard,” he suggested.

“There is an appeal before An Bord Pleanála at the moment and I think there’s also likely to be a court case. So I don’t anticipate that there will be disruption to people’s flights.”

Ryan has so far been quiet on the ruling, but a spokesman said it was up to Fingal County Council to enforce the planning conditions that were put in place at the time that the north runway was granted planning permission.

“As such it would be inappropriate for the minister to interfere with this process,” the spokesman said.

Ian Carey, Green Party Councillor from Swords, said he didn’t even accept Ryanair’s proposal that moving the night restrictions to a midnight- 6am window was a reasonable option.

“Human beings require eight hours sleep per night to stay healthy and changing the hours would only eat into that. The World Health Organisation (WHO) have repeatedly warned about the need to restrict night noise in urban areas or it has a negative impact on people’s health,” Carey said.