Irish Involvement in NATO Missions is not Contributing to Peace

The Irish Defence Forces have a total of 442 soldiers serving overseas in 14 different missions with the UN, EU, OSCE and NATO. This amounts to a scattergun approach and is exposing Irish soldiers to undue risks in some inappropriate missions.

Missions such as the NATO force in Afghanistan are arguably making war not peace, and the dangers to Irish soldiers in Kabul will be significantly increased with the withdrawal of most other foreign troops.

Warplanes and Santa Clause Flights Side by Side at Shannon Airport

It was cold wet windy day at Shannon Airport today as Shannonwatch and Veterans for Peace Ireland activists held their usual monthly peace vigil from 2pm to 3 pm. The airport was quiet initially except for a special Ryanair series of Santa Clause flights for children and adults along the West Coast of Ireland. However, this festive peaceful spirit changed at about 14.45 when the sound of a heavy turbo prop aircraft coming in to land indicated that all was not so peaceful. It was a familiar sound to Shannonwatch peace activists and as expected it turned out to be a US military warplane. This particular one was a Hercules KC130T tail number 162786, belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps.

The KC130T is a multi purpose aircraft whose functions include mid air refuelling of other military aircraft. It was being protected by an Irish army patrol, which you can see on the right hand side of the picture below. U.S. soldiers can also be seen examining and maintaining the aircraft.

US Senate Report on CIA Torture Shows its Time for the Irish Government to Act

Shannonwatch are appalled at the shocking revelations about CIA torture of detainees in the US Senate intelligence committee report released on Tuesday Dec 9th. Details of the methods used, the extent of the torture and the scale of lies and deceit from a government agency are even worse than was already known. Ireland's complicity has already been documented by other reports, but given this new information it is now well past time for a full investigation of the role played by Shannon in the brutal and illegal interrogation undertaken by the CIA in the past decade.

"Since George Bush authorised the use of torture after 9/11, Shannon Airport has been a part of the global torture networks operated by the CIA" said John Lannon of Shannonwatch. "This has been well documented by a range of international bodies but yet the Department of Foreign Affairs continue to pretend Ireland is not implicated in rendition or torture. They base this on assurances from the US government that no prisoners were transported through Irish territory. But we know now that the CIA and the US government lied about their torture programme."

Ireland likely to continue to participate in NATO-led Mission in Afghanistan

It seems clear from the language used by the Minister for Defence this week in response to a parliamentary question from Clare Daly TD that the Government is planning to send further Irish soldiers to Afghanistan with the planned NATO follow-on mission. If they do that, the soldiers will be exposed to even greater danger than at present due to withdrawal of most of the NATO forces and the increased attacks by Afghan insurgents.

Shannonwatch is opposed to any such decision, and will make its position on this clear to the government. We encourage others to do the same, and hope that Dublin-based activists might even be able to make their opposition known through protests and placards outside the Dail. This needs to be done as soon as possible to influence the government decision so it is hoped that small daily protests could be undertaken at lunchtime, starting next week.

Vision Airlines - Back in the Air Bridge War Business at Shannon?

Vision Airlines Boeing 767, registration N661CS at Shannon on 3rd December

On Wednesday 3rd December, on the way to Ennis District Court where TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace were appearing as a result of their efforts to promote peace, Shannonwatch stopped off at the airport and photographed two US warplanes. One was a US Navy Hercules C-130T registration 164993/BD and the other was a C-40 (also US Navy). Coincidentally this is the same type of aircraft that were at Shannon airport on the day that Clare and Mick Wallace went in to do their search and investigation.

Tucked away at Gate 42, which is where the chartered aircraft that transport US troops through Shannon normally park, Shannonwatch also spotted a white Boeing 737, registration N661CS. This is owned by a Texas company called Spectre Air Capital LLC but is operated by an airline called Vision Airlines. The name may not mean a lot to people who watch planes come in and out of Shannon but for a period between 2005 and 2010 their jets averaged two flights a week from Dulles, Virginia to Iraq and Afghanistan. These flights were linked to the US government's "Air Bridge Program" which assisted the flow of military personnel, equipment and materiel needed to support the war in Afghanistan and the continuing operations in Iraq.

A Small Bit of Truth from the Minister but it Raises More Serious Questions

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about how the government was denying the presence of a US military plane at Shannon. Well today the Minister for Foreign Affairs finally told the truth and admitted that the plane had been there. Perhaps he was motivated by the knowledge that we had proof, and that it was pointless to continue to say that the US Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules, registration 168073/QH, was not at Shannon on October 1st.

Here's what the Minister had to say (see original transcript here):

"Arising from new information which has been brought to my attention, I would like to correct the record of the House in respect of an error in responses to four parliamentary questions from Deputy Clare Daly starting on 7 October 2014 and finishing with Question No. 110 on 20 November 2014.