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Wednesday 23 August 2017

Dempsey jet trip required extra security in North

Decision to land in Derry resulted in joint security operation for gardai and the PSNI

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey's decision to use the government jet to fly to the MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal resulted in a detailed and complex combined security operation for gardai and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Mr Dempsey could have travelled by scheduled airline for just €55 and been picked up at Donegal Airport by the organisers of the summer school.

But instead Mr Dempsey chose to travel on the government jet and use two separate garda cars, each with an armed driver -- as well as requiring additional security on his arrival in Derry.

By flying to Derry instead of Donegal, Mr Dempsey's trip had significant implications for gardai and the PSNI.

Firstly, one car and an armed garda collected him at his house in Co Meath and stayed with him until he got on the government jet at Baldonnel.

The government jet made the short trip from Dublin to Derry -- at a cost to the taxpayer of €7,900. Meanwhile, his normal car, an Audi A6, and a second armed garda also made its way to Derry to await the arrival of the jet there.

In Derry, there was also an unmarked PSNI car and two plain clothes officers from the close protection unit in Belfast. Their role was to escort Mr Dempsey and his car to the Border.

As his garda driver was not allowed to carry his firearm in the North, the gun would have been surrendered in a firearms case to the PSNI escort officers. The surrendering of the weapon is normal procedure.

Mr Dempsey was then driven the 90km from Derry Airport to the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, so that he could deliver his speech at 4pm on Monday, July 19.

After giving his speech, Mr Dempsey's Audi A6 returned to the Border where it was once again met by the PSNI crew at a pre-arranged pick-up point.

It is believed the minister on request switched to the PSNI car to allow his own car to return directly to Dublin. The PSNI car then continued with Mr Dempsey on to Derry where he boarded the jet and flew to London, bringing the total cost for the two flights to €13,000.

A spokeswoman for Mr Dempsey insisted that all alternative transport had been investigated and that the use of the state jet had been the most viable option.

"By the time the minister had finished in Glenties, there was no commercial flight that he could have taken from Derry, Donegal, Belfast, Sligo or Dublin that would have got him to London in time for his 7.15am meeting in London the following morning," she said.

That 7.15am meeting was a briefing from officials at the Irish embassy in London in preparation for an official meeting at 8am, which the department said was about "potentially securing very significant investment in Ireland".

Former Fianna Fail TD Mattie McGrath said last Friday that Mr Dempsey's use of government facilities in order to attend the MacGill Summer School in Glenties was "outrageous".

"The man is oozing with arrogance," he said. "He is giving the two fingers to the public.

"He thinks he has the divine right -- using state employees to transport him around the place. He has been in power too long and he can't stand confrontation."

Sunday Independent

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