Dublin Airport run like 'an empire' - Shane Ross

The former minister for transport said there is a "culture of complacency" in the DAA
Dublin Airport run like 'an empire' - Shane Ross

Olivia Kelleher

Former minister for transport Shane Ross has warned that a "calm" bank holiday weekend with a steady flow of passengers is not enough to prevent the "sensational" reputational damage caused to Dublin Airport following the stranding of 1,000 passengers onsite last weekend.

In an interview on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Ross said he despairs when the operators of the airport, the DAA, reassures the public that "it will be better next weekend".

He said there is a "culture of complacency" in the DAA that ties in with it being run like "an empire".

"I wouldn't think that a calm weekend would be enough (to prevent reputational damage). It is absolutely appalling. I think the damage is already done. A thousand people stranded in Dublin Airport is something quite sensational we haven't seen before.

"I think we have a fundamental problem that hasn't been recognised yet. The DAA is a State monopoly. It operates under conditions which it shouldn't be operating under.

"I don't have any confidence (in the DAA). When I was a minister I didn't have any confidence in them really."

'Lack of accountability'

Mr Ross said he worries there is a "lack of accountability" about what occurred at the airport last weekend.

"The DAA is reassuring people that 'we are accountable'. That there is a penalty, that they can be fined, but financial penalties by the State on the State are a bit of a farce quite honestly.

"They can find the millions, but who is paying the penalty except the taxpayer? There is no competition with the DAA, so there is a culture there of complacency it is fair to say. It is kind of a bit of an empire and always has been, because it is a State monopoly.

"I think the Government should look at the structure (of the DAA). The Government should look at the way it is run - the Government should look at it and say 'is there something fundamentally wrong with the way it is run?' There aren't very many state monopolies without any competition left."

Meanwhile, chief executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, Eoghan O' Mara, said that given Dublin is the main tourism gateway to Ireland, the situation is extremely worrying.

"Even tourists to the Wild Atlantic Way access the country primarily through Dublin. Access is critical for an island nation as you can imagine, so scenes like last weekend simply aren't acceptable.

"What we are looking for today is a really robust plan from DAA for how this weekend can be managed and for particularly how the busy summer months can be managed.

"The DAA have done pretty well to manage the increase in aviation in recent times but in peak times they really struggle.

"If it (disruption of last weekend) is an isolated event I think we will be fine, so that is why the plan that the DAA are presenting today is very important, that it shows that there is a road map to how they can ease the crisis."

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe stressed Dublin Airport is "normally a jewel in our crown" when it comes to managing access and the transport of tens of millions of people in and out of Ireland while conceding that what occurred over the weekend was "unacceptable".

Mr Donohoe told Newstalk Breakfast the airport "took a real step backwards" last weekend.

Airports all over the world are encountering some difficulty.

"We expect the management in DAA to quickly put in place plans that will make a real difference. The Sky News screen does show what is happening in Dublin Airport, but the same programme is making reference to transport difficulties that are happening in the UK as well.

"Airports all over the world are encountering some difficulty in relation to the number of people travelling and staffing decisions that were made.

"All that being said, while on the one hand it is understandable, that during a period in which by and large our airports were empty or had very low numbers of people in them that airport management did make choices in relation to how many staff were there.

"While I think it is important to acknowledge the context of what has happened in aviation in the last number of years and what has happened in our airports my core point is still that what happened over the last number of days is unacceptable.

"Even if some challenges are being experienced by the sector, any airport, particularly one as sophisticated as Dublin Airport, does have many indicators to allow it to know what kind of demand that is going to have in the days, weeks and months ahead.

"Therefore, while I have no doubt that there are some factors that can explain what happened they do not take the place of there having to be good plans in place to minimise this happening during the week and make sure this does not happen during the summer."

Mr Donohoe added that he had confidence in the management of the DAA: "The reason why I have had and do is because of their success in managing Dublin Airport and the growth of Dublin Airport over many years.

"I would look overall at the success of Dublin Airport in growing its infrastructure and aviation and growing routes in to airports particularly for countries of the scale of Ireland is no mean achievement.

"This is why what has happened over the last few days is so disappointing, given the investment in Dublin Airport, given the success they have had.

"It is simply unacceptable to see the kind of delays and the kind of queues and so many not being able to travel. While there are some factors that can explain it, nothing justifies it, and that is why in the days ahead it has to be fixed."

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more