13 May 2005

BreakingNews.ie

Warplanes in Irish airspace costing taxpayers millions

13/05/2005 - 14:43:48

Taxpayers have forked out millions of euro to cover the cost of military jets flying over the country, it emerged today.

With more than 100,000 troops passing through Shannon Airport this year alone Roisin Shortall, Labour Party transport spokeswoman, said it was shocking that the public were footing the bill for warplanes using Irish airspace.

Ms Shortall said the Government needed to re-think the policy of granting foreign air forces free access to flight paths.

“I believe that the public will be shocked and surprised to find that the Irish taxpayer is actually paying for the privilege of allowing these aircraft to fly though Irish airspace,” she said.

“Ireland is clearly a significant loser here as very few Irish military flights over-fly other countries, but our position on the edge of Europe means that many foreign military flights go through Irish controlled airspace.”

The Labour TD noted other neutral countries including Austria, Finland and Switzerland did not grant exempted status to US military flights.

“Surely it is time for Ireland to consider adopting a similar policy,” she said.

“It is bad enough that we should be allowing US military flights to use our airspace and to land at Shannon, but it is surely totally unacceptable that the Irish taxpayer should be having to foot the bill for these flights.”

The Department of Transport confirmed the Irish Aviation Authority was reimbursed to the tune of €10m for flight charges since 2000.

The figures showed a threefold increase in cost over the last five years. In 2000 charges ran to €1,139,283, in 2001 €1,377,560 and in 2002 €1,642,541.

The fees hit €2,148,374 in 2003 and last year the bill paid for by taxpayers reached €3,687,933.

The Department of Transport was unable to break down the nationality of military aircraft flying over the country.

But in a separate response to a question tabled by Ms Shortall it emerged 110,766 US troops passed through Shannon this year, more than double the 47,149 for the same period in 2004.

The Department of Transport confirmed the free flying deal was part of a Eurocontrol agreement.

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