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Now Dempsey backs 'naked' airport X-rays

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has backed the introduction of 'naked' body scanners in Irish airports to expose hidden weapons or explosives.

Already under pressure over his handling of the snow crisis, he has now confirmed he would not oppose to the roll-out of the full-body scanners at Dublin, Cork and Shannon.

The controversial technology also has the support of Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.

Dublin Airport Authority has put out a e2m tender for the X-ray machines, which are being trialled in Britain.

The scanners produce images of passengers which show up breast enlargements, false limbs, piercings, and a clear outline of passengers' private parts.

Pressing

European ministers are debating whether to sanction the use of the machines, which cost around e90,000 each, as part of an EU-wide security crackdown, with France and Britain pressing for their introduction.

Mr Dempsey's spokesman said the use of body scanners was not approved yet by the EU but talks were continuing about their introduction.

"The minister is not opposed to the use of this technology once the appropriate safeguards are in place," he added.

At a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of Ministers in Toledo, Spain, Mr Ahern said he was also in favour of the body scanners. His spokesman said outside the meeting: "If you're a law abiding citizen you don't have anything to fear from any technology like body scanners, these are just new methods of detecting things. As far as the Justice Minister is concerned, there are no issues about introducing these body scanners and other technologies. If it means people can travel safely they should be introduced."

At Manchester Airport, where one of the scanners is being trialled, passengers no longer have to remove their coats, shoes and belts as they go through security checks.

The airport says the black and white images are not pornographic or erotic and are destroyed once viewed by an officer at a remote location.

Electromagnetic waves are beamed onto passengers while they stand in a booth, and a virtual three-dimensional 'naked' image is created from the reflected energy.

Security officials in the US have pioneered their use at New York and Los Angeles airports, and they are gradually being rolled out in the country.

hnews@herald.ie