Shannonwatch, 28 April 2013
According to John Lannon of Shannonwatch who monitor military traffic through the airport, it is extremely unlikely that this is the case. “When US President Barack Obama visited Ireland in June 2011, Taoiseach Enda Kenny assured him of a no-change policy in respect of the use of Shannon by the US military. That policy included the airport’s use in the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which were most certainly military operations” said Mr. Lannon.
Retired US Army Colonel and former diplomat Ann Wright reiterated this view. “I have never heard of any such US military flights where there were not armed personnel, at least for securing the plane,” said Col. Wright.
In total the Department of Foreign Affairs granted permission for the landing of 608 foreign military aircraft at Shannon Airport in 2012. Of these, 548 of these were from the US. According to Minister Gilmore, permission was granted in all cases subject to conditions that the aircraft were unarmed, carrying no arms, ammunition or explosives, did not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flights in question did not form any part of military exercises or operations.
Gerry Condon of the US organisation Veterans For Peace also expressed his astonishment at Eamon Gilmore’s statement. “If these U.S. military planes were not on military missions, then why did 548 of them need to land at Shannon Airport last year?” he said. “Do the US and Irish governments take us all for fools?”
Minister Gilmore’s assertions are reminiscent of similar statements made by Brian Cowan when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs. In November 2002 Mr Cowan also stated that permission for US military landings and over-flights was granted on the basis that the aircraft were unarmed, did not carry arms ammunition or explosives and did not form part of a military exercise or operation. However it was public knowledge that the US troops using Shannon were taking part in a military build-up in preparation for war against Iraq, and this was quite clearly “part of a military exercise or operation”. Furthermore after employees at the airport had seen US troops with guns, Minister Cowan was forced to admit publicly that they were in fact carrying their personal weapons.
The US soldiers referred to by Brian Cowan are transported on “civil” aircraft operated by Omni Air International and other companies, rather than “military” aircraft operated directly by the US Air Force or Navy. It is these military aircraft that Minister Gilmore now claims have no weapons on board and are not engaged in military operations.
It is also worth noting that in April 2004 Brian Cowan stated while Minister for Foreign Affairs that in relation to transits through Shannon there is no requirement for the identification of any specific military unit being transported. “It is difficult to understand therefore how Minister Gilmore can be so sure that the troops being transported on Hercules C-130’s or other military planes are not part of military exercises or operations” said Mr Lannon.
“The Irish government have a duty to establish and tell the truth about what the US military are taking through Shannon and Irish airspace” said John Lannon. “They claim to care about neutrality and international law but their inaction tells a different story. Indeed given what they know from information already supplied by Shannonwatch and others, their failure to inspect US military aircraft at Shannon may well amount to complicity in human rights abuse and war crimes.”
Minister Gilmore’s statement was made in answer to a Dáil question from the Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Diaspora, Sean Crowe TD.
See Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade written answers to parliamentary questions athttp://www.kildarestreet.com/
For information on Shannonwatch see www.shannonwatch.org.
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