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Dublin Airport expansion, Ireland


Several residents groups objected to Dublin Airport’s expansion plans on the grounds that more flights would mean greater levels of air and noise pollution, stress on local infrastructure and increased traffic in the area. Portmarnock Community Association (PCA) established the UPROAR (United Portmarnock Residents Opposing Another Runway) community group in 2004 which picketed hearings conducted in 2006 by An Bord Pleanála, an independent statutory established to operate an open and impartial planning system. UPROAR members were dismayed by An Bord Pleanála’s 2007 decision to give the go-ahead to a new terminal and runway.[1] Townlands affected by the planned new runway include Pickardstown, Millhead, Kilreesk and St. Margaret’s. In 2016 about 40 households were eligible for relocation grants as their homes would become uninhabitable due to close proximity to the new runway. Other residents were offered help from a sound insulation scheme which would reduce aircraft noise.[2]

In March 2017 several homeowners near Dublin Airport said their lives had been ruined by the proposed new runway. One resident living just 500 meters from the new runway said that his family were effectively “living on a building site” as construction work had begun nearby, compounding the impact of ongoing airport operations: “My family and I can no longer live here, it is horrendous and I fear for the health implications of living so close to the runway. Even at the moment you can smell so much jet fuel, the trees are gone for miles and what’s happening recently is ruining our lives. My home is completely devalued.”[3]

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) and a group of individuals filed a lawsuit attempting to stop building of the new runway. The individuals asserted a variety of legal reasons for opposing airport expansion while FIE focused on environmental grounds, including the additional greenhouse gas emissions which would worsen climate change and its disastrous impacts. FIE claimed that the airport expansion was inconsistent with “an unenumerated personal constitutional right to an environment that is consistent with human dignity and well-being of citizens at large”. Litigants also challenged the time extension of planning permission that had been granted by Fingal County Council in 2007. The lawsuit to halt expansion of Dublin Airport was rejected by the High Court in February 2018, in spite of its recognition of the real and immediate risks posed by climate change, but FIE was pleased by the ground-breaking finding of a constitutional right to an environment that protests human dignity and well-being.[4]

One of the individuals participating in the lawsuit was Jim Scully, a dairy and beef farmer set to lose his home, farm and likelihood to the new runway. He sought a judicial review alongside 21 other families, who had argued that the development was illegal and that Fingal County Council had failed to consider or address their concerns over the impacts on their homes and lands. Scully’s house and farm, 30 hectares he owns plus 24 hectares leased from the DAA (Dublin Airport Authority) is located directly under the proposed flightpath. He is one of the homeowners offered a voluntary buy-out scheme by the DAA. Scully was offered the current market price for his home along with an additional 30 per cent of its value but nothing for the land or loss of his livelihood. He said that setting up a farming business on new land would be financially impossible. Teasgasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, supported Scully, estimating in 2016 that the cost of setting up a comparable new dairy enterprise stood conservatively at US$662,000.

In March 2018 Scully spoke of noise from current airport operations, as high as 90 decibels, making it impossible to hear people talking and his buildings shook when planes were taking off and landing. He also also mentioned toxic fumes that were not being monitored and people moving away: “Tracks of land, buildings and houses are black from plane fumes. Scores of people have left the area along where the DAA owns thousands of acres. Deserted houses are boarded up and parts of the area so far look like eerie ghost towns.”[5] On 12th July 2018 Scully and others whose farms will become unviable because of the new runway project, some left with land areas as small as a couple of acres, protested at an information meeting held by DAA.

Local residents were also objecting to DAA’s lobbying to get conditions under which planning permission was granted overturned. One of these conditions was that no night lights would be installed.[6] In October 2018 DAA reported that it was attempting to get what it called “onerous” conditions attached to planning permission overturned, namely the limitations of night flights and flights at the busiest time of day between 6am and 7am.[7] If these conditions are overruled the airport expansion will have greater negative impacts including noise and light pollution on surrounding communities. The Airport Noise Regulation Bill, due to be published soon by the Department of Transport, seeks to apply an EU directive governing aircraft noise and pave the way for the DAA to appeal flight limits imposed in the original planning permission.[8]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Dublin Airport expansion, Ireland
State or province:Leinster
Location of conflict:Pickardstown, Millhead, Kilreesk and St. Margaret’s (Fingal County Council)
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

A new runway at Dublin Airport has been planned since the late 1960s. A planning application was submitted in 2005 and a new runway 3,110 meters in length located 1.6 kilometers north of the existing runway, running parallel alongside it, was approved in 2007. The 261 hectare site has been in Dublin Airport’s land bank for over 40 years.[5] The runway project was mothballed during the recession but in April 2016 DAA (Dublin Airport Authority) announced that the US$371 million development would be going ahead.[2] In October 2018 the main contract for construction of the new runway was awarded to an Irish-Spanish joint venture, comprising Irish firm Roadbridge and Spanish infrastructure firm FCC Construccion. The contract includes construction of 306 square meters of runways and taxiways, 6 kilometers of internal airport roads, new drainage and pollution controls, 7.5 kilometers of electric cable and more than 2,000 runway and taxiway lights. Construction is set to commence immediately and due for completion by early 2021.[10]

The new runway is part of a bigger expansion programme, with a budget of an additional US$1 billion which includes new piers and aircraft stands at the northern and southern sides of the airport. Scheduled for completion in 2023 the expansion, taking the total number of aircraft stands from 112 to 147, will enable Dublin Airport to increase its passenger capacity to 40 million annually.[9] In January 2018 the European Investment Bank (EIB) was preparing a loan for Dublin Airport, a sum of US$419 million to cover about 50 per cent of the cost of ‘improvements’ including rehabilitation of runways, new aircraft parking stands, construction of a parallel taxiway, landside office space and improvements to terminal buildings.[11] The EIB loan for upgrade of Dublin Airport’s infrastructure was agreed on 12th April 2018.[12]

Project area:261
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,371,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2004
Company names or state enterprises:Roadbridge from Ireland - Awarded contract for construction of new runway and other works in joint venture with FCC Construccion
FCC Construccion from Spain - Awarded contract for construction of new runway and other works in joint venture with Roadbridge
Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) from Ireland - Owner and operator of Dublin Airport
Relevant government actors:Fingal Country Council
An Bord Pleanála
Department of Transport
International and Finance Institutions European Investment Bank (EIB) - US$419 million loan for Dublin Airport 'improvements' agreed in April 2018
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:UPROAR (United Portmarnock Residents Opposing Another Runway)
Friends of the Irish Environment
Portmarnock Community Association (PCA)
St Margaret’s Concerned Residents Group

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsPollutants emitted by aircraft - black soot and fumes
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsHealth problems caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Health problems caused by aircraft noise
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Dublin Airport expansion including a new runway has proceeded in spite of opposition from residents. Households were only compensated for loss of their homes, not for loss of land and livelihood. Conditions attached to planning permission for the new runway that would have mitigated noise and pollution impacts on neighbouring communities may be overturned.

Sources & Materials

[1] Local objectors dismayed by decision, The Irish Times, 30 August 2007

[2] Silence reigns as new Dublin airport runway plans emerge, The Irish Times, 9 April 2016

[3] Dublin Airport to face legal action from locals over new runway, DublinLive, 1 March

[4] A lawsuit to stop the expansion of Dublin Airport was rejected by the High Court, Irish Environment, 1 February 2018

[5] Farming under Dublin airport's new flight path 'the buildings vibrate and it's impossible to hear anyone talk',, 17 March 2018

[6] Dublin Airport €320 million runway causes local uproar,, 12 July 2018

[7] DAA adds €10m public fund to €320m runway bill, Irish Examiner, 31 October 2018

[8] Noise regulation Bill could pave way for new runway at Dublin Airport, The Irish Times, 30 October 2018

[9] Major expansion planned for Dublin Airport, The Irish Times, 7 September 2018

[10] Irish firm awarded joint venture for construction of runway at Dublin Airport, Irish Examiner, 30 October 2018

[11] EIB prepares loan for Dublin, Jane’s Airport 360, 9 January 2018

[12] EIB agrees EUR 5.8 billion investment in energy efficiency, social infrastructure and local businesses, European Investment Bank, 12 April 2018

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

UPROAR – Part 2, norunway, 21 May 2007

UPROAR – Part 1, Local residents air their views on planned construction of a new runway at Dublin Airport, norunway, 20 May 2007

Meta information

Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3725



Farming next to Dublin Airport

Farmers and property owners protested against new Dublin Airport runway. Source: Eamon Ward

Plane flying low over St Margaret’s

Townlands affected by new runway include Pickardstown, Millhead, Kilreesk and St Magaret’s

Dublin Airport new runway

Artists rendering of the USD372 million, 3,110 meter, new north runway

2007 protest against new runway

UPROAR, a community group opposed construction of a new Dublin Airport runway. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Farmers impacted by new flight path

Farmer Jim Scully and 21 other families brought judicial review over new runway plans. Source: