Saturday 3 December 2016

Explainer: What will happen in Irish airports if the Garda strike goes ahead?

Published 02/11/2016 | 15:53

Gardaí still operate passport control at Terminal 2 in Dublin airport
Gardaí still operate passport control at Terminal 2 in Dublin airport

With an all-out strike of rank-and-file Gardaí, sergeants and inspectors on the cards for Friday and no sign of a deal in sight, everyone is wondering what contingency plans are in place.

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Given the constant Garda presence at Irish airports, will they stay open and operate normally? Here is everything we know at this point.

Dublin’s Terminal 2, Cork and Shannon may have to close for the day

The Garda National Immigration Bureau operates passport control at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport and in Shannon and Cork airports. Without passport control in operation, these airports would have to close.

It is possible that the airports could open with a reduced number of flights if some staff report for duty, but it is unclear whether the three airports can be managed with the limited number of probationary Gardaí and reservists available.

This could also affect Dún Laoghaire and Rosslare ferry ports.

Dublin’s Terminal 1 is most likely to stay open

Passport control in Terminal One of Dublin Airport is civilianised and will not be as affected by the strike. Terminal 1 may stay open if Terminal 2 closes.

It is unclear whether the other terminals and airports could temporarily civilianise their passport control, but the Gardaí do not comment on ongoing operational matters and we will likely have to wait until Friday to find out.

However a spokesman for the Civil Public and Service Union (CPSU), said that they would not be able to cover for gardaí as they do not have the powers to detain a suspect.

Eoin Ronayne previously told the Irish Daily Mail: "It is hard to know how the airport will operate without gardaí. What happens if we find someone who is a problem? We do not have the power to detain people."

Airport police will be available even if the Gardaí are not

The airport police are not a part of An Garda Síochána and will be reporting for duty.

If the Gardaí and the Department of Justice can find a way to keep passport control open for the day, airports should be able to operate as normal.

The negotiators have stayed tight-lipped about their plans

The Department of Justice will sit down with the GRA in the Labour Court this afternoon and the AGSI tomorrow, but both the Justice department and Garda management have been reluctant to lay out their plans for Friday.

In a statement to Independent.ie, a Department of Justice spokesperson said: “The department is working closely with stakeholders including the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Dublin Airport Authority in relation to immigration control at Dublin Airport and the options for dealing with the planned Garda action in the event that it goes ahead.

“Immigration control at other approved airports in the State is an operational matter for An Garda Síochána who are dealing with this as part of their overall contingency planning.”

When contacted for comment on their plans, a Garda spokesperson said: “In order to ensure a guaranteed policing service and maintaining the security of the State so as to protect and support communities on November 4 2016, the Garda Commissioner has written to all Garda members directing them to report for duty during the period 7am November 4 2016 to 7am November 5 2016.

“The Commissioner has also directed that all leave and rest days for Garda members for November 4 2016 are cancelled. Local Garda management will direct personnel under their control on their required duties to ensure appropriate policing of their areas of responsibility.”

Based on these statements there could be a solid plan or no plan at all, but management clearly want to emphasise the importance of keeping Gardaí on the streets in a bid to avoid the strike.

A source told independent.ie last week that talking about contingency plans could “spook” the pay talks.

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