Tánaiste Micheál Martin has ordered his officials to buy a new government jet as he is warned ministers cannot be expected to travel in “rickshaws”.
Mr Martin, who is the Foreign Affairs Minister, told the Dáil a team has been established to consider purchasing either a new or second hand jet for ministerial travel.
The Tánaiste’s comment came as Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe warned the type of jet currently used by ministers was involved in the major crash in Mexico with members of government on board.
The Fianna Fáil leader was warned in his briefing document, when taking over his current role, that the jet needs to be replaced by 2024 at the latest.
Speaking in the Dáil, he said a Ministerial Air Travel review group drafted a report detailing the strategic and financial impact of purchasing a new plane.
He said these reports were in addition to market research carried out by an aviation consultant on suitable options for a second-hand aircraft,
“I have reviewed the various strands of work conducted to date and have approved the recommendation made by my officials. Ultimately, the State needs a replacement aircraft that provides a broad utility role, including strategic reach in crisis situations and medical evacuation, as well as ministerial air transport,” Mr Martin said.
“A project team is currently being established and planning for a procurement competition for replacement capability will commence shortly. The procurement will consider both new and second-hand replacement capability. The outcome of any procurement competition will be subject to further deliberation and consideration in line with the public spending code,” he added.
Along with regular ministerial travel, Mr Martin said the new jet should be able to assist with humanitarian missions.
Responding in the Dáil, Mr Crowe said all nine passengers on the Mexican government jet, including the country’s interior minister, were killed when it crashed while seven people on the ground also died.
“It is very important that technology is kept up to date and kept safe. Many years ago I used to pilot planes myself. Pilots do not like taking to a plane that is unsafe or may not be fully up to spec in its equipment or maintenance,” he said.
“It is important not just for government purposes, although that is what everyone will hone in on here, but for humanitarian missions and medical evacuations.
“We cannot expect members of the Government to be going around in rickshaws and we cannot just magic children who are overseas or Irish people who need to be repatriated home,” he said.