33. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will reconsider the appointment of Fingal County Council as the noise regulator for Dublin Airport in view of the response from local residents and the reliance the council has on rate-based income and the perception that the regulator needs to be seen as an independent stakeholder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17768/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018)
Deputy Brendan Ryan: There have been variations on this question today and on previous occasions, but I make no apology for raising it again. I want the Minister to reconsider this issue. It is my intention to remind him of the relationship that exists between Fingal and Dublin Airport. It is a commercial relationship and the decision should be reconsidered.
Deputy Shane Ross: The Government has made a decision that Fingal County Council shall be the competent authority for the purposes of EU Regulation 598/2014. This Government decision was based on an assessment that Fingal represented the best available option for the timely and effective implementation of the airport noise regulation, which is in the best interests of all stakeholders and interested parties. Importantly, the Government also decided to introduce primary legislation to give effect to the regulation and, therefore, it will fall to this House to help shape the final outcome.
I have every intention of bringing forward a Bill that strikes a balance between the rights of local residents, the Dublin Airport Authority, as the regulated entity, and the broader national interest in recognition of the crucial importance of our primary national airport.
I am aware of the concerns of some local residents. I am sympathetic to their genuine worries about this matter, particularly in light of the uncertainty there has been as to how the regulation will be applied. However, I am confident that the merits and bona fides of Fingal County Council as the competent authority are strong and will be shown to be so in the course of the legislative process. There will be a strong legal basis for all that Fingal will do as the competent authority, underpinned by national law and EU regulation, which will set out an open and transparent regulatory process.
As a matter of principle, I cannot accept any suggestion that the exercise of regulatory roles by local authorities might be in any way compromised by their sources of funding. It should be made absolutely clear that there will be no changing the Government’s thinking on this issue and that there will be no reconsideration of this appointment. It was made after due consideration, including of all the available alternatives.
Deputy Brendan Ryan: The issue at hand is that a commercial relationship exists between Fingal County Council and the Dublin Airport Authority. The Minister knows that. If he was on this side of the House, he would be doing exactly what we are doing. In fact, the Dublin Airport Authority is the single biggest ratepayer to Fingal County Council. I am not questioning the ability of Fingal County Council or, indeed, its relationship with the Dublin Airport Authority. I am, however, stating that a relationship exists which is both important and commercial in nature. The appointment of Fingal County Council as noise regulator gives rise to the potential for a conflict of interests to arise at some point in the future. Like Deputy Clare Daly and other representatives from Fingal, I will continue to raise this matter in the hope that before the Minister brings legislation to the House, good sense will prevail and this decision will be reconsidered. The Minister has to acknowledge the problem. If he does not, then the whole of Fingal - indeed, the entire country - faces a serious problem.
Deputy Shane Ross: I see the point about the conflict. There is a relationship between Fingal County Council and the Dublin Airport Authority. The Deputy is correct. However, it is not a relationship of huge significance. The rates paid by the authority account for approximately 8% of Fingal County Council’s overall income. That is a large amount of money but it means that the council gets 92% of its income from other sources.
The figure 8% is, I suppose, of some significance, but I do not think it puts it in a position where it can put undue pressure on Fingal. I understand the Deputy’s anxiety, but when one looks at the raw statistics, one does not find that it is as big a problem as he is anticipating.