Are the CIA Still Using Shannon Airport?

In the last week two aircraft owned by a company linked to rendition flights have been spotted at Shannon. The Learjet 36s, with registrations N71PG and N54PA, are operated by Phoenix Air Group, based in Cartersville, Georgia. The company carries out air ambulance and cargo services as well as military operations for the US Government, and the aircraft are known to have visited the US military interrogation and detention centre at Guantanamo Bay over the past number of years.

While N54PA is operated by Phoenix Air its registered owner is a company called VPC Planes of Wilmington, Delaware.

Attempts by Shannonwatch to have suspected rendition planes investigated have always been ignored or dealt with inappropriately by the Gardai. In the past activists have been arrested while asking to have suspected rendition planes searched. Nonetheless Shannonwatch member Edward Horgan went to Shannon Garda Station on Wednesday night last and asked that N54PA be searched and its crew investigated for possible involvement in past rendition flights. As usual he was asked if he had any concrete evidence of any crimes. And he made the usual response, which is that it is the Gardai\'s job to investigate and collect any such concrete evidence.

A reponrt in the Clare Herald confirmed that a request to search the aircraft was made at Shannon Garda Station. A Garda spokesperson is quoted as saying that the \"complainants had no evidence to support the request\".

Shannonwatch have provided a large amount of information and evidence relating to suspect rendition flights to the Gardai at Shannon. On March 18th 2011 two wheelbarrow loads of information were provided but to date there has been no official response other than to say they are investigating the matter.

In 2008 the Irish Government set up a Cabinet Committee on Aspects of International Human Rights to review and strengthen legislation governing the search and inspection of rendition aircraft. The committee met just three times during it lifetime, nothing ever emerged from it, and it has not been reconvened by the Fine Gael/Labour government since it took power at the start of 2011. In fact in January of this year, Tainiste Eamon Gilmore even went as far as saying that this State is \"in no way complicit in providing comfort for torture, rendition or other actions which breach the human rights of anybody\".

We are at a loss as to how Eamon Gilmore would know if this is the case without a proper inspection process for suspect aircraft using Shannon. The CIA have used the airport in the past; who is to say they are not still using it? 

The European Parliament and the Council of Europe have stated that the Irish Government is avoiding its international human rights responsibilities by refusing to investigate allegations that aircraft linked to renditions have landed in Ireland. The Irish Human Rights Commission have advised the Government that the only effective way of ensuring that it does not become complicit in torture is through establishing an effective regime of monitoring and inspection.

Why have successive Irish governments been so determined not to follow this advice? Are they worried that they might discover known CIA torturers - or contracted killers operating on behalf of the US government - in Shannon? Finding out that this is the case would mean having to do something about it. And it seems they are not prepared to do that

Share this