Gardai Out in Force at Shannon - But Not to Search Planes

10 Guards, six activists - and a dog

Activists get accustomed to the presence of police at or near their demonstrations. But today's unnecessary presence of Gardai (police) at Shannon - where they outnumbered peaceful protestors by two to one - seemed strange and unnecessary. It was not a once off occurrance though; we've been holding peaceful vigils on the second Sunday of every month for three and a half years but in the last few months the state's reaction has become much more heavy handed. Is it coincidental that there has been a more determined effort to impede peaceful opposition to Shannon Airport's role in U.S. military and CIA operations since the present government and Minister for Justice took office?

Our one hour vigil was attended by 14 people but we estimate that close to 30 Gardai and at least eight of their vehicles were involved in observing, photographing, videoing, blocking our access to the airport, and examining our cars. They overtly recorded as we stood peacefully with banners and posters denouncing the presence of torture planes and the U.S. military at Shannon. Barriers were erected blocking all but a narrow channel for traffic in and out of the airport. And all the while the Gardai stood with their backs to the scene of the real crimes - the airport itself.

Gardai (names withheld) photographing vigil attendees

At one point a man and a woman who claimed to be Gardai came close to the vigil and took a series of photographs of the people participating. When asked what the purpose of their actions were they claimed to be "just observing". Our parked cars were examined closely and Garda cars circled repeatedly with video cameras. Our every move was documented. Indeed one could be forgiven for thinking the Gardai were under orders to intimidate and harass, and to snuff out legitimate protest to Ireland's complicity in U.S. military operations and human rights abuse.

While all this was going on, a C-32B aircraft with registration 00-9001 was present at the airport. Its the military version of Boeing 757 and it belongs to the US Air Force's 486th Flight Test Squadron which is part of the Air Force Material Command based at Eglin AFB, Florida. It is also used by the US State Department's Foreign Emergency Support Team that helps U.S. and host governments respond to terrorist attacks. One interesting aspect of the plane is that there are no military markings on it apart from the registration located under the last few rear pax windows, and a US flag next to it. (See photograph here).

Gardai were asked to search the C-32B but as far as we know no action was taken.




Share this