No. 93 NAI DT S13820A

Explanatory Memorandum for Government by the Department of Industry and Commerce on the scheme of a Bill to establish a free airport

Dublin, 12 March 1946

  1. In October, 1944, the Government approved in principle of the establishment of a free airport at the Shannon Airport, Rineanna,1 and of the issue of an announcement that it was intended to promote legislation accordingly at an early date. Following discussions with the Departments of Finance, Agriculture, Justice, Local Government and Public Health, and the Revenue Commissioners, the attached scheme of a Bill to establish a Customs-free Airport has been prepared by the Department of Industry and Commerce.
  2. The establishment of a free airport should assist to a material extent in the development of Rineanna as an international airport. It is expected that the bulk of traffic through the Shannon Airport will consist of passengers and goods in transit to other destinations. It is important that delays should be reduced to a minimum. It is proposed that all passengers passing through the Airport will be relieved of Customs examination and questioning.
  3. It is probable that merchandise will be transported by air to an increasing extent. The carriage of merchandise by air predicates a degree of urgency in its delivery. Where merchandise is in transit it would pass through the free airport with the minimum of delay. The free airport would also facilitate the development of an entrepot trade. Goods might be brought to the airport and held there to meet urgent orders, delivery being made by plane. The scheme of the Bill does not limit possible development in this direction.
  4. The Bill will have the effect of removing the area of the airport from the scope of Customs laws affecting the importation and exportation of merchandise. The scheme envisages the withdrawal of Customs and Excise personnel from the airport and the discharge of the duties performed by them for other Departments by officers of the Department of Industry and Commerce. It has been agreed by the Departments concerned that prohibitions and restrictions on the importation and exportation of certain goods may be dispensed with in respect of the airport, in so far as they arise solely from domestic legislation. Restrictions arising from international obligations as, for instance, the prohibition on the importation of raw opium, and certain other restrictions considered necessary in the national interest will be enforced by these officers. The existing laws administered by or on behalf of the Department of Local Government and Public Health and Agriculture relating to public health and veterinary protection will continue to be enforced within the Free Airport zone.
  5. There has been no previous legislation establishing a free port or zone in Ireland. The only legislation which will be directly affected by the enactment of the Bill would appear to be the Customs laws, as prohibitions and restrictions on importation and exportation are effected legislatively by inclusion in the tables of prohibited imports and exports under the Customs Consolidation Act. In accordance with the Customs (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1945, all prohibitions so tabled under the Customs Consolidation Act become for the purpose of the law Revenue prohibitions. In addition to this Bill it will be necessary to deal separately with the revenue adjustments. It is understood that the Revenue Commissioners will request the Minister for Finance to arrange for the inclusion of the necessary provisions in an appropriate Finance Bill.
  6. It is not possible at this stage to make an accurate estimate of the expenditure that will be involved in making Rineanna a free airport. The scheme covers all the powers that are likely to be required. Development will take place in two main stages. There will first be a free airport designed to deal with traffic which is mainly passenger traffic. It is hoped later to provide for increasing merchandise traffic and for manufacturing, blending, packing and other processes.
  7. The Revenue Commissioners consider that the final development will require the erection of a stout fence around the free zone. In the early stages, when passenger traffic only is expected, control can be exercised by patrol and observation by Customs officials within the Airport. It may be necessary to arrange for minor constructional works for security reasons and also for the accommodation of Customs patrols. It will probably be necessary to appoint a few officials analogous in status to Preventive Officers in the Revenue service to deal with the minimum restrictions other than Customs which will still have to be enforced. These officers may be able to undertake these duties in addition to other duties, connected with the operation of the airport.

1 Rineanna, the locality in which the airport is built and the name by which it was known in its early years.

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