Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Aviation Industry

9:10 am

Photo of Duncan SmithDuncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
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2. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the measures that he is taking to ease the concerns of residents in north County Dublin in the Dublin Airport flight path who have had a substantive increase in aircraft noise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2369/23]

Photo of Duncan SmithDuncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
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A number of communities in north County Dublin have been experiencing huge disruption in their lives caused by aircraft noise for the past couple of months. Some from the outside might say that they live near the airport, but that is not the reason these communities are angry. They are angry because these routes of take-off and landing do not comply with any of the routes set out in the 2007 planning permission for the north runway or any of the routes that were presented in multiple public consultations since. Has the Minister of State or his Department engaged with any of the authorities on this issue?

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy will be aware, Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, holds statutory responsibility for the management, operation and development of Dublin Airport. Noise mitigation at Dublin Airport is subject to substantial regulation and oversight as well as best practice mitigation measures. Following the opening of the north runway in August last year, an issue regarding the runway's departure flight paths was identified that resulted, as the Deputy has stated, in some local communities being unexpectedly overflown. When this issue was identified, I understand that DAA advised local communities and elected representatives that it had commenced a review with the aim of resolving the issue. When the review was complete, the authority reverted to these stakeholders advising that the current standard instrument departures, SIDs, would be updated, resulting in flight paths aligning more closely with those previously consulted on and used as part of the planning process.

All flight paths at Dublin Airport are governed by international safety standards and, therefore, the revised SIDs required regulatory review and approval before being implemented. DAA, in conjunction with the IAA air navigation service provider, ANSP, submitted a revised departure process to the safety regulator for the required safety assessment, which was subsequently approved. The revised departure procedure then had to be submitted for promulgation to all aircraft manufacturers as required under International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, safety rules. This is so that the revised fight path can be input to aircraft instrument systems. The ICAO process requires a minimum of two months’ notice and provides for fixed dates as to when such information can be submitted. DAA has confirmed that the new flight path will be operational from 23 February 2023, and aircraft will operate the revised departure process from that date. In the interim, the continued use of the current departure process is necessary. However, DAA has committed to ensuring there are no departures off the north runway before 9 a.m. during this period. Finally, DAA has advised that the overall number of houses in the various noise contours will be similar to that previously communicated. However, detailed modelling is currently being completed, and DAA anticipates that a small number of additional houses may become eligible for mitigation measures as a result of the revised flight paths.

Photo of Duncan SmithDuncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
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First, we need to know how the initial flight paths that have been used for the past couple of months and will be used to the end of February managed to go through, considering they are so outrageous relative to the planning permissions. The revised flight paths we are expecting at the end of February were published by the IAA two days ago. There is great concern that the revised plans are not going to be similar to what was granted in the 2007 planning application, and that aircraft will fly over communities that never thought that they would be overflown such as Ballyboughal, Rowlestown and Kilsallaghan. There has been a huge breach of trust and there is a collapse in trust in the communities there. All local and statutory bodies need to be out in the communities speaking with the residents because they feel they are being ignored and are being given the runaround. They feel that they are not being told the truth about what their lives are going to be like in the coming months and years ahead.

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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It is important that there is community engagement from DAA and all the authorities involved. As I said, noise mitigation at Dublin Airport is subject to substantial regulation and oversight and best practice mitigation measures. These measures are designed to address the long-term adverse effects of noise, particularly at night, while also facilitating the sustainable development of the runway. With regard to planning matters and enforcement, as the Deputy will be aware, any enforcement complaint can be made by communities. That is a matter for Fingal County Council and the relevant authorities if they wish to submit a complaint, which is their right.

Photo of Duncan SmithDuncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
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As a Deputy and Minister of State who will be familiar with this issue given his constituency borders the airport, I am sure he has attended many of the public consultations. I ask him to ask the DAA and Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, to make a presentation to the communities on the new the flight paths prior to them coming into operation. The communities have requested this on a number of occasions. They are engaged communities that understand the airport, flights and the issues involved. They are adept and experienced with community engagement, but they are being ignored on this issue. The communities and Deputies are being given vague responses. At a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communication yesterday, we were told that the flights, as they exist now, are in compliance with the 2007 planning permission. Anyone who is on nodding terms with that knows that prima faciethere is a question mark over that. There is a huge breakdown of trust. We need to see better community engagement. I ask the Minister of State to ask DAA and the IAA to do that before the new flight paths come into operation at end of February.

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The flight paths will become operational from 23 February, as I outlined. There is a process in place relating to ICAO safety rules that includes the inputting of flight data. That has to be promulgated months in advance, and has happened. However, I take the Deputy's point about community engagement. I will reflect the feedback that he has given as an elected representative for Fingal and the necessity for DAA and others to engage with communities so that they can pass on their feedback. The process of engagement will not be able to impact the new flight path, which has been promulgated and will become operational from 23 February.