A senior Department of Transport official has rejected claims that Fingal County Council has a conflict of interest in being appointed as the authority with responsibility to monitor noise levels at Dublin Airport. 

Officials from the department were before the Oireachtas Transport Committee today to face questions from TDs about the new Airport Noise Regulation Bill.

The legislation will be enacted before the end of the year so Ireland will comply with new EU-wide noise management rules for major European airports.

It seeks to strike a balance between sustainable airport development and effective airport noise management.

Speaking at the committee today, Ronan Gallagher from the Department of Transport explained that the legislation will introduce "a bespoke airport noise reduction regime for Ireland." 

As the EU regulation only applies to major EU national airports, it only applies to Dublin Airport. 

As part of the new noise mitigation measures at Dublin Airport the bill designates Fingal County Council as "the competent authority" or "noise regulator"

Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy said there are "question marks out there as to whether Fingal County Council is the appropriate competent authority in relation to dealing with this EU directive."

He questioned if local authorities are appointed to the same role in other EU countries.

He also asked if Fingal County Council "have the appropriate skills to deal with the complexities that this will entail".

Committee Chairperson and Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd pointed out that Fingal County Council earns income from rates at Dublin Airport and he questioned if the local authority's independence could be compromised as it is beneficiary of income from the airport. 

Mr Gallagher said there is "a mixed bag" of how this has been implemented in other member states. He pointed out that in Germany and the UK some local authorities have been appointed as noise regulators for airports. 

In terms of the a conflict of interest, the transport official said: "The minister has explained the rates revenue from Dublin Airport to Fingal is roughly around 15% of its total rates income, but if you take all of the income received from Fingal it is about 8%.

"It is not an insignificant amount of income but at the same time it has lots of other sources of income from including property taxes from residents as well." 

He added: "We were very careful to examine this issue of conflicts but we are clear the way local authorities work that often they are in the space of issuing planning permissions for commercial or residential properties and making decisions around zoning or planning, all of which in due course derives an income stream.

"Therefore they have existing systems to make sure there are not undue influences or conflicts in that space." 

In a statement issued to RTÉ, Fingal County Council said: "The Council did express concerns about taking on this new role, particularly having regard to the associated resource implications."

"However, we have worked with DTTAS over recent months to address these matters," it added.

On the question of having a conflict of interest, the statement pointed out that "Fingal County Council has a track record of performing the role of competent authority in areas such as planning and environment and does so in an independent and transparent way."

Following further questions from Mr Troy and Fine Gael Senator Frank Feighan, Mr Gallagher said: "I wouldn't want to characterise it that Fingal have full resources and full expertise.

"They are quite clear on the record that they are going to have to acquire some of that.

"But they do have an institutional knowledge of how to run a lot of the processes that would be required."