Friday 15 December 2017

US Customs under scrutiny at airport

daa's Kevin Toland
daa's Kevin Toland

John Manning

The Taoiseach has ordered a review of how pre-clearance US customs facilities at Dublin Airport are operating but says his Cabinet are 'fully in favour' of retaining the facility, seen as vitally important to the airport's business model.

Speaking in the Dáil after announcing the review, Taoiseach, Enda Kenny said: 'This morning, the Cabinet was fully in favour of retaining our pre-clearance facility and the Attorney General has confirmed that the issue in so far as the legality is concerned is a matter for the United States courts.

'In so far as Ireland is concerned, we are in compliance with human rights legislation and in accordance with our own Constitution.

'Pre-clearance is an important element for Ireland and it is available in Shannon and Dublin. Many other airports have sought it. I have already condemned torture and breaches of human rights in any country around the world and will continue to do so very vociferously.'

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that a single passenger at Dublin Airport had fallen foul of US President Trump's Executive Order that imposed new travel restrictions on people from seven majority Muslim countries in the Middle East.

He explained: 'On Saturday morning I understand that a foreign national was refused US pre-clearance at Dublin Airport and was returned to the Irish immigration authorities. I can inform the House that the person in question is lawfully resident and working here in Ireland and therefore was able to leave Dublin Airport as he was entitled to remain here.'

The Taoiseach added: 'The US authorities are very conscious of the good relationship that has existed between Ireland and the US for very many reasons and for very many years. They are fully aware of the preclearance facilities and their value and they are anxious that they would be continued for the future, as are we.

'We want to be perfectly clear, however, that we are fully compliant with human rights legislation. There is no infringement in that regard and the issues that are arising now legally are strictly a matter for the American courts.'

Pre-clearance facilities at Dubin Airport have been under political pressure in the last week since President Trump's controversial Executive Order was enforced and a number of TDs have called for its closure while the new travel restrictions are in place, to avoid Ireland's complicity in the new measures.

DAA chief executive, Kevin Toland, speaking at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin, last week said he was 'very confident' that the pre-clearance facilities at Dublin Airport would be maintained and said that 'US business is critically important for our airport and for the country'.

Locally, Green Party representative, Joe O'Brien called for the suspension of pre-clearance at Dublin Airport saying that Trump's new travel restrictions 'have now gone way beyond what is acceptable'. He said the order was 'deplorable'.

Alan Farrell TD (FG), voiced his 'concern' and said deciding whether a person can be admitted to a country based on their nationality alone is 'unacceptable'.

Fingal Independent

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