Irish flights ban 'could stay until Thursday'
Aviation chiefs have closed Irish airspace until 6pm today and warned that the no-fly order imposed because of the Iceland volcanic ash cloud looks set to run until the end of the week.
Air traffic bosses at the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said the flight ban could remain until Thursday or Friday when it is hoped weather systems from the Atlantic will disperse the ash.
The IAA said the volcanic plume had effectively settled over the UK, North and Central Europe.
It has banned all commercial passenger flights, including North American traffic, from Irish airports until tonight.
"Similar types of restrictions are enforced in Northern and Central Europe as well as the UK," the IAA said.
"The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre London, the competent European authority in relation to volcanic ash, projects that the ash cloud is almost stagnant over Europe.
"Until weather conditions change this pattern, ongoing restrictions will continue."
Ahead of a video conference of European transport ministers, the IAA said it hoped to use the experience of American air traffic bosses when Mount St Helen's erupted in 1980.
Eamonn Brennan, IAA chief executive, said safety was the top priority but added that they wanted authorities to examine scientific data to see if restrictions could be eased.
"In practice I think it could last all week long," he said.
"Ireland and the UK are right slap bang in the middle of this thing; from a practical point of view there's not much we can do about it.
"We are 100pc guided by safety. The economic argument, while we are very, very aware of it, safety is our number one priority."
Mr Brennan told RTE Radio: "What we are feeling here is that, although the thing may disperse naturally by Thursday or Friday with the winds, the problem is that the volcano may reoccur again in two weeks' time - in two weeks' time we could be facing the same problem."
The IAA said it has been told the Icelandic volcano has been pumping out an average of 750 metric tonnes of ash per second over the last five days.