Dáil Éireann - Volume 603 - 14 June, 2005
Written Answers. - Foreign Military Aircraft.
Mr. M. Higgins Mr. M. Higgins
 468. Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether there is a difficulty and inconsistency with the citizens of a peace-loving and neutral country having to pay some of the costs of war, in view of recent revelations that taxpayers’ money is used to effectively subsidise the US military’s sending of armed troops and a wide range of munitions to war and to occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19415/05]
Mr. Eamon Ryan Mr. Eamon Ryan
471. Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to continue the practice of reimbursing the Irish Aviation Authority for overflights in Irish airspace by foreign military aircraft; his further plans to charge foreign military aircraft for overflights in Irish airspace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18966/05]
Mr. Eamon Ryan Mr. Eamon Ryan
472. Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to renegotiate the Eurocontrol agreement in order that Ireland will join other neutral countries such as Austria, Finland and Switzerland that already charge for military overflights (details supplied). [18967/05]
Mr. Callely Mr. Callely
Mr. Callely:I propose to take Questions Nos. 468, 471 and 472 together.
The use of Shannon Airport by US military forces is a practice that has been in place for several decades. Foreign military aircraft using the State airports pay the appropriate airport charge to each airport authority. Furthermore, civilian aircraft carrying troops pay all charges whether air traffic control or airport related.
The Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, provides air traffic control and communications services to aircraft passing through Irish controlled airspace, en route, and aircraft landing and taking off from Irish airports, terminal. Irish administered airspace covers 450,000 sq. km of which 83,000 sq. km is sovereign airspace. The flight path of military aircraft is primarily through international airspace administered by Ireland while only a small proportion of such flights land at Irish airports.
Under a European organisation for the safety of air navigation, Eurocontrol, multilateral agreement to which Ireland is a party, various categories of flights, including flights under visual flight rules, flights performed by small aircraft, flights performed for the transport of Heads of State and search and rescue flights, are exempt from paying en route charges. In the case of other categories, including military flights, training flights, flights performed to test air navigation equipment and circular flights, states have the option to exempt such flights from payment of the en route charge.
In common with most Eurocontrol member states, Ireland exempts all such flights, including military flights of member states of Eurocontrol, United States and Canada, from payment of the  en route charge and this arrangement has applied since Ireland joined the Eurocontrol en route charging scheme in the early 1970s. This arrangement means the IAA costs in regard to military flights are met from my Department’s Vote.
Information received from Eurocontrol indicates that Austria, Finland and Switzerland do not at present grant exempt status to US military flights. However, my Department understands that invoices issued by the above states to the US authorities in respect of military flights have not been paid. It should be noted that Austria, Finland and Switzerland exempt other Eurocontrol member states from these charges on a reciprocal basis.
Ireland also exempts military aircraft flights from payment of the communications charge, a set amount per contact, and the IAA costs in regard to those charges are also met from my Department’s Vote. Efforts to collect this charge in the early 1990s were unsuccessful and, following advice from the Attorney General, debts then outstanding were written off with the agreement of the Department of Finance and a decision taken to cease charging the communications fee to military aircraft.
The policy of exempting foreign military aircraft from the above charges is well established international practice and, while this policy is optional under Eurocontrol rules as pointed out earlier, there are no plans at present to discontinue it.
Dáil Éireann 603 Written Answers. Foreign Military Aircraft.