May 2: Minister denies US planes were on military missions

The presence of US Hercules planes at Shannon Airport on March 11, which are intended for military activities, was denied in the Dáil by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan.

The presence of US Hercules planes at Shannon Airport on March 11, which are intended for military activities, was denied in the Dáil by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan.

He was replying to Independent Deputy Mick Wallace who said one of the planes was numbered BD 5379 and is a US Navy Lockheed C-130 warplane operated by a VR-64 Condors’ Fleet logistics support squadron from McGuire AFB.

“They are part of a team that is entrusted to safely execute effective, responsive C-130 Hercules air logistics missions in direct support of fleet and combatant commanders worldwide,” he said.

“These planes are engaged in military activity. Only this week, Dr. Edward Horgan, who was trying to get a flight from Shannon to London, saw four military planes parked on the runway at Shannon. There were as many military planes in the airport as there were civilian.”

In response, Minister Flanagan said he could confirm that permission was granted by his Department for the landing of these two aircraft at Shannon Airport subject to the strict conditions which apply to all foreign military aircraft.

“These include stipulations that the aircraft must be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives and must not engage in intelligence gathering and the flights in question must not form part of military exercises or operations,” he said.

“In seeking requests to my Department in respect of these aircraft, the United States Embassy indicated that the purpose of the landings was for crew rest. My Department has not received any information from An Garda Síochána in relation to these aircraft.”

Need to regulate psychotherapy and counselling services - Neville

The need to regulate psychotherapy and counselling over the past ten years was raised in the Dáil by Deputy Dan Neville.

There is still no regulation at present in Ireland for the registration of psychotherapists or counsellors, he said. There is no requirement for a qualification to practise in these areas.

“It is dangerous for untrained and unskilled people to probe a person’s unconsciousness,” he said.

“We are dealing with extreme human vulnerability and serious damage can be done to such delicate people. We have seen it.”

The eating disorder organisation, Bodywhys, he said, has been discussing this for years. It has extensive complaints about treatment by unregulated counsellors.

Back in 2005 the Health and Social Care Professionals Act, which provides for the registration of persons qualifying under the title of a designated profession, was enacted. This is for the determination of complaints concerning the fitness to practise of professionals named under the legislation.

“Psychotherapy and counselling were not included as the various organisations could not agree,” he said.

“Subsequently, 22 of them made a presentation to the then Minister at his request, and produced the Psychological Therapies Forum report, Submission on the statutory registration of counsellors and psychotherapists in Ireland.”

Eating disorders are psychological, psychiatric and physical, he said. It is a very complex area. He said he got somebody who has no interest whatsoever in eating disorders or any area of psychotherapy and counselling to apply for an advertised diploma and they got a reply back saying they could start the course the following weekend, without any background whatsoever in any branch of medicine.

In response, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said while the professions of counsellor and psychotherapist are not specifically designated under the 2005 Act, there are various regulatory controls on many counsellors and psychotherapists operating here.

“The profession of psychologist, for example, is a designated profession under the 2005 Act, which means that those psychologists who are counsellors and-or psychotherapists will in time be regulated under the Act,” he said.

“A psychologist registration board is due to be established this year and will be an additional source of advice on the question of regulating counselling and psychotherapy in the interest of protecting the public. Psychiatrists, some of whom practice psychotherapy, are regulated under the Medical Practitioners Act 2007. Also, counsellor therapists working in the publicly funded health sector are required to have the minimum qualifications set by the HSE under the Health Act 2004.”