McNamara seeks clarity on transatlantic air travel

Clare Independent T.D. Michael McNamara has told Government that the proposed reopening of the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland must be accompanied by the resumption of transatlantic flights to and from Ireland.

Questioning Foreign Minister Simon Coveney in the Dáil last night, Deputy McNamara said it would make little practical sense to maintain restrictions on transatlantic air travel while restoring the Common Travel Area.

“The reality is that we will be opening up travel with the United Kingdom and there are transatlantic planes, which used to service Shannon Airport, that are now flying from Manchester to North America,” stated Deputy McNamara.

He continued, “The Minister is acutely aware of this, having an airport in his constituency. Once we have an open and common travel area with the United Kingdom, it is simply senseless if planes are taking off from North America and coming into the United Kingdom for us to not allow planes to go from Ireland to North America. People will simply travel via the United Kingdom and via Belfast if necessary. All we are doing is strangling our economy to no public health benefit if people are travelling anyway, which they will do sooner rather than later.”

“I urge the Minister to keep the practicalities in mind as well as the public health concerns because sometimes some of the public health advice seems to be completely devoid of practical effect. It is not always so but sometimes it is, including the example of the advice on antigen testing, given the European Union position on it,” stated Deputy McNamara.

“I can understand the frustration, particularly for those who have airports in their constituencies, but for everybody,” stated Minister Coveney in response to Deputy McNamara.

“We are trying to get the balance right in managing risk and taking the advice from our public health teams and then making decisions with as much pragmatism as we can have in those decisions,” he continued. “We have one of the most conservative and restrictive international transport policies of any country in Europe. I would defend that and if one looks at the impact of that in the non-importation of variants of concern in recent months, that policy is working.”

“The dynamics around that decision are changing, however, because of the impact of vaccines, both at home and abroad. As that risk changes, the policy will change too and I hope we can do that as soon as we safely can from a public health perspective,” concluded Minister Coveney.