Minister Charlie Flanagan Tries Explaining Away our Neutrality when Appearing Before Petitions Committee

Almost a year ago Shannonwatch presented a petition to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petition. It called for an investigation into the US Military and CIA use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace. After our oral and written submission, a delegation from the Committee visited Shannon in October to hear a range of perspectives on the issue. The Committee also engaged with Niall Burgess, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (transcript here), as well as with Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe TD (his statement here), who discussed issues raised in the petition relevant to his Department.   

On June 16th the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan TD appeared before the committee. The transcript of the session is available here, and there are many aspects of what he said that we would challenge or disagree with. Here are some of the main points.

Waplanes are not a Matter of Fun and Entertainment

While in south eastern Turkey last month, Shannonwatch's Edward Horgan was acutely aware of the fierce fighting taking place just across the border in Syria. Dozens of people were killed, possibly hundreds but no one was counting the dead and injured. US warplanes were supporting Syrian Kurds, who are fighting against both the Syrian Assad regime and the Islamic State (ISIS). There are reports that "ethnic cleansing" is taking place in towns and villages just south of the Turkish border, by the multiple groups fighting each other in this devastated region. Many of those fleeing the fighting were Syrian Kurds but they were being prevented from entering Turkey, because Turkey fears that they might support Turkish Kurdish community struggle for autonomy. The Assad regime has been reported to be dropping barrel bombs on civilians. However these barrel bombs are very primitive and ineffective compared with the very powerful bombs being dropped by the US air force in this region.

Shannon Airshow Cannot Ignore the Airport's Complicity in War

Shannon Airport will host what they call an "air display extravaganza" on July 18th, to mark the 70th anniversary of the first commercial transatlantic flight at the airport. They say the airshow will provide a visual treat from leading aerobatics performers, parachutists, helicopters, jet fighters and stunt fliers. 

While the airshow will glorify war by presenting jet fighters as entertainment, the official proceedings are unlikely to highlight the airport's complicity in war and human rights abuse over the last 15 years. Shannonwatch intend to correct that by organising a peace vigil to coincide with the airshow, and we are asking for your help. Hopefully as many supporters of peace can make it down to Shannon to show their disagreement with US military abuse of Shannon Airport on July 18th. 

The timing of the peace vigil will be flexible but we will aim for 2pm. It will probably be located before the entrance to the airport but more details will be provided closer to the day. 

Government Attempts to Deal with Terrorism Ring Hollow

The Government's Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Amendment Bill 2014 is passing through the Oireachtas at the moment. It was initially published in August of last year, and it creates three new offences. These are public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism. The offences carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison on conviction or on indictment in the higher courts.

At the time of its publication the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said that it lays the groundwork for Ireland's ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism in due course.

She went on to say "We stand with our European colleagues in doing everything in our power to ensure that there are no gaps in our law that can be exploited by those who would inflict terror and mayhem on innocent people at home or abroad."

Shannonwatch Appalled at Court Decision to Convict Mick Wallace and Clare Daly

Shannonwatch are appalled at today's decision by a court in Ennis to convict TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly for their attempts to search a US military plane at Shannon. The two TDs were given two maximum €1000 fines each by Judge Durkan, despite the overwhelming evidence to support their case that they had no alternative but to do what they did.

"The court accepted without qualification the knowledge and expertise of the witnesses who outlined serious breaches of neutrality and other laws at Shannon." said Clare Daly. "And let's remember the details of this evidence as presented to the court. There was evidence of guns on military planes, of soldiers going to war through a country that claims to be neutral, of CIA rendition planes, and of ongoing refusals to inspect these planes. The judge accepted that Mick and I have been obstructed, sidetracked and ignored in our efforts to discover the truth about Shannon. Yet in sentencing us he took an extremely narrow view of the law. He effectively admitted that his hands were tied, and he refused to deal with all the evidence presented to him."

US Military Plane Inspection Attempt at Shannon Because of Lack of Oversight by Authorities

Edward Horgan of Veterans for Peace and Shannonwatch was detained at Shannon Airport last Saturday morning (April 18th) as a result of his attempt to search one of four US military Hercules C-130s at the airport. Speaking after being released by the Gardai, he said his action was a result of the failure of the Irish Government and the Gardaí to take steps to ensure that US military aircraft at Shannon are not acting in breach of international laws or Irish neutrality.

Dr Horgan was about to board a flight to London to attend the AGM of Veterans for Peace UK when he saw the Hercules aircraft nearby. He walked over towards the aircraft and he approached the first Hercules C130 he was stopped by an airport security officer. "I explained to him that I wished to search the four aircraft but he prevented me from doing so" said Dr Horgan. "He was then joined by other members of the airport police and I was taken to the terminal building where I was handed over to a Garda Immigration officer".