DAA set to be tasked with purchasing anti-drone technology

The company which runs Dublin Airport will be tasked with purchasing anti-drone technology under plans to come to Cabinet on Tuesday.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and his junior minister Jack Chambers will ask Government to approve plans to appoint the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) as the operator of counter-drone technology at Dublin Airport.

They will also ask ministers to consider plans to conduct a wider examination of the need for counter-drone technology to protect key State infrastructure, such as other airports, energy generation and transmission facilities, Defence Forces facilities, government buildings, and water infrastructure. 

An existing State agency will be tasked with leading this work, sources said.

A senior source said that following the decision, there will be a short period where training is undertaken and the technology is delivered to Dublin Airport. No legislation will be required to allow for its use.

Operations at Dublin Airport have been suspended on six separate occasions since late January amid drone activity, resulting in safety risks to aviation, diverted and delayed flights, and severe disruption to passenger journeys. 

Despite multiple meetings between different stakeholders and two cases being before the courts, the issue has continued, most recently last Thursday. 

Dublin Airport said a drone was spotted within 5km of the airport at 6.27pm, and three flights were diverted, “discommoding passengers”. 

Gardaí were immediately notified and flight operations resumed at 6.59pm.

Social housing acquisitions

Also at Cabinet, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien will bring a memo that outlines how his department will increase the number of social housing acquisitions to 1,500 in 2023 and how each local authority will receive a target number. 

Sources said that where a landlord opts to sell a home when the tenant is on housing support, the council will be encouraged to buy that home. 

The memo also updates the Government on an additional 1,000 long-term leased homes which will be delivered between 2023 and 2024. 

Mr O’Brien’s update provides information on the review of the Capital Advance Leasing Facility (CALF), which is one of the main funding sources provided by the department for approved housing bodies.

Health Bill sign-off

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will ask Cabinet to sign off on the Health (Amendment) Bill 2023, which will abolish the statutory public inpatient charge of €80 per day, which is charged up to a maximum of €800 in a year.

This new legislation will mean that people will no longer be charged when accessing public inpatient care in public hospitals. 

Funding of €21m was provided in Budget 2023 to remove public in-patient hospital charges and the estimated full-year cost is up to €32m.

Finance Minister Michael McGrath will publish the Finance Bill, which implements the recent cost-of-living measures on Vat, excise, and the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme.

Meanwhile, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris will seek Government approval to give the go-ahead to a major student accommodation project at Dublin City University.

The project will be done in a number of phases and will the Government allocate €40m for 405 new beds at DCU.

A total of 30% of the project will be ringfenced for students from disadvantaged areas at a reduced rent, sources said.

Mr Harris will also confirm work is ongoing with University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, and University College Cork on similar projects and that he expects to come to the Government with further proposals shortly.

Similar Government support has been provided for University of Limerick, University of Galway, and Maynooth University. Government approval was provided for these projects in November.

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