Passenger safety is priority, vows Dempsey
TRANSPORT Minister Noel Dempsey yesterday said passenger safety was the priority in deciding when airlines will be allowed to fly again.
EU governments have been criticised for their slow reaction to the airspace shutdown caused by the clouds of ash from the volcano in Iceland.
Mr Dempsey participated in a conference call with his EU colleagues yesterday to discuss the continuing crisis.
He said they had approved a plan to introduce three zones in airspace:
- The first, a no-fly zone around the volcano.
- The second, an area affected by ash where planes could be allowed to fly.
- The third, any area with no restrictions where planes can fly freely.
"It should have the effect of easing restrictions in air traffic over the next few days and certainly towards the weekend," Mr Dempsey said.
"It's all based on passenger safety. They won't be allowed up if there's any danger. Before they allow planes into any zones, they will be sure it will be safe," he added.
Mr Dempsey said he was concerned that there could be a recurrence of the ash plumes drifting over Europe.
"That would be a concern, particularly if it was as disruptive as this," he said.
"It is a possibility something like this can recur," he added.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Brian Cowen ruled out bringing in the Irish Navy to ship stranded passengers home.
"We don't have that capacity unfortunately. Our navy ships aren't equipped for that sort of passenger transport," he said.
Also yesterday, Mr Dempsey rejected claims that European ministers had reacted slowly to the crisis. He said they were focused on ensuring lives were not endangered.
"I would have to take responsibility if something happens and a number of planes crash," he said. It is necessary to be absolutely sure. I'm not going to gamble with lives, and my colleagues across Europe would not do that," he added. "If it's safe and it's deemed safe then arrangements will be put in place to ensure that people are moved as quickly as possible."