26/02/2009

Civilian Immigration Officers An Option, Says Ahern

Passengers arriving at ports and airports in Ireland could soon be grilled by private contractors rather than immigration officials.

The Justice Dermot Ahern is said to be considering the privatisation of passport control to speed up delays of up to two hours at points of entry.

He told the Dáil yesterday that the civilianisation of the service was also among the options being considered.

He was being questioned about delays for passengers travelling through Dublin airport because of an industrial relations "issue" over the withdrawal from immigration officers of a meal allowance worth just under €30 daily.

He was responding to Fine Gael Justice Spokesman Charlie Flanagan, who said that "since before Christmas, a most serious situation has developed at Dublin airport that is damaging business and trade and commerce and tourism and the ordinary movement of people in this State".

He said that queues of an hour-and-a-half and two hours at the principal airport makes the situation "intolerable".

Mr Ahern said he told officials he was "open to looking at other ways of dealing with this issue out at Dublin airport and even looking at issues such as the privatisation of the control at Dublin airport".

Mr Flanagan said he did not think he would agree with privatisation, but suggested the Minister "would consider a certain civilianisation of the process", having an "immigration officer who needn't necessarily be a fully-fledged member of the Garda Síochána", but a garda aide or civilian immigration officer instead.

Mr Ahern responded: "Primarily there are gardaí out there at the moment and they are doing a good job and they have the resources and the Garda Commissioner has dedicated more resources."

(BMcC/JM)

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