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Junior minister in objection to airport expansion plans

A Minister of State is among at least 380 submissions to Fingal Council objecting to expansion plans for Dublin Airport.

Green Party TD and Minister of State for Community Development, Integration and Charities Joe O’Brien, who represents the local Dublin Fingal constituency, raised a number of concerns in his submission, writing: “It will significantly increase noise exposure from aircraft to residents of north county Dublin and cause a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

“During a climate emergency, I believe it is contrary to our national and international commitments to expand airport passenger numbers by 25%.”

His objection is one of at least 380 submissions which were received by Fingal Council before the deadline closed on 29 January.

They were responding to an application from the operator of Dublin Airport, daa, in December, seeking 15-year planning permission for 11 new infrastructure projects and an increase of capacity from 32 million to 40 million passengers per year.

Minister O’Brien is the latest Green Party TD to voice concerns about the plans.

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The party’s Spokesperson on Climate and Transport, Brian Leddin, previously told RTÉ News that it “flies in the face” of Ireland’s national planning framework.

Last week, MEP Ciarán Cuffe said he believed the plan is “utterly divorced from reality”, adding “the people of north Dublin deserve a good night’s sleep”.

It puts Minister O’Brien and his colleagues out of step with some of the Green Party’s coalition partners – including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who in November indicated his support for an increase to the passenger cap – saying it was too “rigid”.

Many residents living close to Dublin Airport have also submitted objections to daa’s plans.

In a standardised letter submitted by dozens of locals, a “lack of noise mitigation measures included in the application” and a “severe lack of public consultation” are cited as causes for concern.

They also claim “the scale of the proposed increase in passenger numbers is not supported by National or Local Planning policy.”

Submissions in favour of the daa’s plans are also available to view on Fingal Council’s website.

They include letters from international airlines such as Emirates, West Jet and Hainan Airlines, which say the expansion proposals will facilitate more routes out of Dublin Airport.

The plans are also supported by business groups such as the Ireland-US Council and Dublin Chamber.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dublin Chamber Chief Executive Mary Rose Burke said the plans were of “critical importance both for economic but also for social reasons.”

“When we under-invest in critical infrastructure, we are playing catch up decades later. There will be an economic impact of about 33,000 jobs and over 4 billion if it doesn’t go ahead now.

“Without the investment in Dublin Airport, we are limiting growth in the future, both in inbound investment, but also outbound opportunities for indigenous businesses seeking to export.”

In relation to some of the environmental concerns raised in the objections, the daa said the plans include the investment of “€400 million over the next four years in over 20 sustainability initiatives and projects.”

It also highlighted its commitment to reducing carbon emissions by “51% by 2030 and to be net-zero by 2050 at the latest”.

On the issue of the noise implications of expansion, daa said that the modernisation of fleets is producing quieter models of airplane – resulting in less noise.

The daa said that “it recognises that this does not lessen noise impacts for all its closest of neighbours and has restated its commitment to reducing the impact further”

The application made by daa is subject to the same provisions as all planning applications, so in theory, a decision is due on 16 February.

However, Fingal Council said its flight noise monitoring system – the Airport Noise Competent Authority – will play a full role in the assessment of the application, so it is likely a final decision on this application may take some time longer.

Daa Chief Executive Kenny Jacobs has previously said he expects it to take up to two years.

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