Speech on Airline Security

Mr President, I share and express my sympathy for the United States and for the other victims of this terrible incident. As a former Northern Ireland minister, I have been a terrorist target and I have faced the TV cameras surrounded by the wreckage of a terrorist incident. I know, therefore, how important it is to get both the response right and also to protect the general public as far as is possible in a democracy.

Like my colleague, Mr Jarzembowski, I am chiefly concerned about aviation and the mostly ordinary people who rely on it. As a member of the Committee on Transport, I have written to the chairman of that committee asking for early consideration of the implications for this important industry. First of all, security at airports and on aircraft; secondly, the control of congested airspace in view of the likely increase in military activity, the dangers of hostile incursion into European civil airspace and, of course, as he said, about the continued viability of European airlines. It is vital that we are consistent in our approach to public safety and to the collective peace of mind throughout the Union.

We must not overreact, exacerbating the understandable fears of the traveller and threatening their civil liberties, but we must get it right and we must do so immediately. We must act alongside our friends and allies within the United States of America and in international organisations such as the ICAO. To get it right will require work and effort and a commitment: As Mr Van Orden said, we want to make certain that we are saying and doing the same things in six months' time as we profess to do now. In conclusion, the message is quite simple: Terrorism must not be allowed to win!

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