Government fury as Slovaks play 'blame game'
Published 07/01/2010 | 05:00
THE Government is furious at attempts by the Slovak police force to engage in the "blame game" over a botched security exercise that led to explosives being put on a flight to Dublin.
Slovakia's border police chief admitted yesterday, meanwhile, that his officers took two days to tell their commanders about the blunder.
But Tibor Mako, launched an astonishing attack on Dublin airport staff over the incident and said there was now doubt over whether the airport was "prepared for a crisis situation".
Mr Mako, who has offered to resign over the incident, also criticised gardai for arresting unsuspecting electrician Stefan Gonda (49), who had the explosive strapped to his bag.
But his criticisms were dismissed by a spokesman for Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, who said there was a simple way of preventing the incident.
He said it "beggared belief" that the Slovak border police had allowed Mr Gonda to board the flight in the first place with the explosives.
They had used him as an "unwitting guinea pig", but had not stopped him -- even after he passed sniffer dogs at Poprad airport, in northern Slovakia.
"The minister can't understand how this happened, given there was still ample opportunity to prevent the passenger from boarding the plane," the spokesman added.
But Slovak border police said Dublin airport officials were told that explosives were strapped to a bag on a Danube Wings flight from Poprad to Dublin on Saturday and that the Slovak authorities had asked them to find it.
However, it emerged that neither Dublin Airport Authority nor the gardai were contacted. A message was instead faxed from Slovakia to luggage handling agent Servisair.
Mr Ahern's spokesman said the security operation was a "bit of a fiasco". But he said the minister had accepted an apology from the Slovakia's deputy prime minister and interior minister Robert Kalinak.
"The interior minister was very helpful and he has promised full co-operation with the investigation set up by Mr Ahern," the spokesman added.
The attack on the Irish authorities' handling of the incident came after Mr Mako yesterday admitted his officers took two days to tell commanders about the blunder.
"One policeman made a fatal, unprofessional error," he said.
Mr Mako claimed the explosives were not inserted into bags but stuck on to the straps of a rucksack.
He said disciplinary procedures had begun against the police dog handlers in charge of the animals supposed to find the explosives, adding they had been "negligent" in their duty.
The Government is attempting to maintain good relations with Slovakia, and has made no move to summon its ambassador to Ireland, Roman Bazek, for an explanation.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said the issue of the botched security operation was being handled by the Department of Justice.