Tuesday, 6 November 2018
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Military Aircraft Landings
72. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason, consistent with the policy of neutrality, there would be that so many US aircraft seeking exemptions under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Orders 1973 and 1989 to land at Shannon Airport. [45613/18]
The transit of foreign military forces through Irish airspace and airports is a longstanding practice, which began shortly after the Second World War. The vast majority of these movements of military forces have been to and from the United States.
Successive Irish Governments have maintained this practice and these facilities have never been withdrawn or suspended during many different periods of international conflict. Similarly, successive Governments have deemed this to be compatible with Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality, which is defined as non-participation in military alliances.
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport my functions in relation to the use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace by the US military are limited.
Questions relating to Irish foreign policy, Ireland’s neutrality, the role of An Garda Síochána etc. are not matters which I can comment on in detail. Similarly I have no role in relation to flights by military or state aircraft through Irish airspace or landing at Irish airports. Such flights require the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade under the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order, 1952.
A clear distinction is made in international and national law between military aviation and civil aviation. I am responsible for matters relating to Irish civil aviation legislation and policy.
The 1944 Chicago Convention is the main international treaty governing the operation of civil aviation. Article 35 of the Convention states that no civil aircraft may carry munitions of war over a state without that state’s permission. This requirement is ratified in Irish law in the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order, 1973, as amended. Under the 1973 Order the carriage of weapons and munitions of war is prohibited in any civil aircraft in Irish airspace and on board any Irish registered aircraft, unless an exemption is granted by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. The Chicago Convention and the 1973 Order apply to munitions of war only, not to military personnel that may be on board civil aircraft.
In accordance with the provisions of the 1973 Order, my Department operates a procedure under which airlines wishing to carry weapons or munitions through Irish airspace or airports must apply for each individual flight at least 48 hours in advance. My Department seeks the views of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in relation to foreign policy issues and the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to security issues.
An internal review of these procedures is nearing completion.
However, it is worth noting, that as Minister, in 2016, I used my discretion to refuse several applications. The department’s recommendation was to grant the permits, having received no objections to the application during the consultation process. In these cases I used my discretionary powers to refuse these applications. Previous Ministers have rarely, if ever, used their discretion to refuse applications in circumstances where the relevant Departments and the IAA were recommending that an exemption be granted. These applications related to the transport of munitions of war, categorised as dangerous goods i.e. munitions of war that contain material that is explosive, corrosive, flammable, toxic etc. Since I used my discretionary powers in 2016 to refuse these cases, very few (if any) applications have subsequently been received by the air operator concerned in respect of this category of munitions.