Thursday, 7 February 2019
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
233. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the European Civil Aviation Council definition of a full background check for persons other than passengers working airside which is due to be determined in Europe by June 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6083/19]
234. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has sought information from the Department of Justice and Equality outlining the reason for not providing access to obtain a full background check to 104 airport police and fire service officers in Dublin, 88 in Cork, 64 in Shannon and the customs officers in the three State airports. [6084/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together.
Aviation security remains a priority area at national and EU level. It is under constant review and scrutiny in response to new intelligence on threats and risks. Ireland is obliged play its part in the international effort to make flying as secure and safe as possible. If we aspire to be a highly connected nation, we need to make sure our international airports are up to international best standards in security terms. On the matter of how and why specific decisions have been taken in respect of certain categories of people working at our airports, such details are security related and confidential, but I can advise the Deputy that they are informed by international best practices and risk assessment.
Background checks are a key element of aviation security requirements that are applied with very limited exceptions to all persons other than passengers requiring access to the security restricted areas of airports and on-board aircraft in the State. A background check comprises three elements: a verification of identification, a pre-employment check and a criminal record check. The employer conducts the verification of identification and pre-employment check. An Garda Síochána provides the criminal records check.
My Department has recently introduced a programme of security enhancements which have been subject to a detailed risk assessment by the Irish Aviation Authority, which is responsible for regulating aviation security. A number of reviews/audits of security practices and procedures at the State airports have pointed to the need to introduce improvements in staff screening arrangements. The new enhancements were adopted by the National Civil Aviation Security Committee (NCASC) - which includes the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána - on the basis of a risk assessment by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), which has responsibility for overseeing compliance with aviation security requirements in Ireland.
With regards to further developments at European level, new provisions are on the way which will introduce additional aspects to the background checks carried out in civil aviation, including the use of security intelligence. When these new EU measures come into effect, they will become part of the overall suite of security measures now applied at Irish airports - including the recently introduced enhanced screening measures - with the objective of improving security practices and security culture at our airports.
There has been a high level of engagement around the implementation of these new measures, and while there is always an element of adjustment and inconvenience to individuals, the new measures are in the broader public and national interest.