On a number of occasions the Minister for Foreign Affairs has told us (and the rest of Ireland) that most requests for foreign military aircraft to use the landing facilities at Shannon Airport concern aircraft refueling, as well as crew and passenger rest. Allmost all of these landinga are by US military planes of course. He has also said that some of these US military landings relate to the transport of dignitaries, flight crew training, aircrafy maintenance - and airport familiarization.
Like us, Clare Daly TD was curious about why it is necessary for the US military to engage in airport familiarisation in a small airport in the west of Ireland, given that the US has thousands of airports of its own adequate to such a task. Here's what the Minister said in reply to a parliamentary question from Clare on the matter (PQ 24502/16 answered 16 Sept 2016):
"It is normal procedure for military pilots, including those of our own Air Corps, to conduct landings at airfields outside of their home country. Aviation, whether civil or military, is an international activity and aviation procedures, rules and practices can vary from country to country. Familiarisation with different local procedures, geography and meteorological conditions contributes to greater safety."
So the US military want their pilots to be familiar with the procedures and geography of Shannon. Why is that, given that we are supposed to be a neutral country?
Clare Daly also asked several questions about the landings of US military planes at Shannon in June of this year, and the exercises or operations the aircraft were involved in. She did so because at that time NATO has begun its Anaconda-16 war game, involving the largest assembly of foreign forces in Poland since World War II. It was possible that the increased number of US military flights through Shannon was linked to this.
Here's what the Minister had to say in response (PQ 24502/16 answered 16 Sept 2016):
"Arrangements under which permission is granted for military aircraft, including US military aircraft, to land at Irish airports are governed by strict conditions. These include stipulations that the aircraft must be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives and must not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flights in question must not form part of military exercises or operations.
The countries of destination noted on requests for US military aircraft to land in Shannon Airport during the month of June were as follows: Canada, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Italy, Jordan, Lithuania, Norway, Romania, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and USA.
In deciding upon requests for permission for foreign military aircraft to land at Irish airports, each request is examined to ensure that it conforms to the criteria I have outlined above. I am satisfied that the US authorities are fully aware of the need to comply with the strict conditions attaching to permission for military aircraft to land at Irish airports, including that the flights in question must not form part of military exercises or operations."
Note that the Minister did not say that the US were fully compliant with the requirement that their planes be unarmed, not involved in military operations, etc when landing in Ireland. He just said that they were fully aware of the need to be compliant. Thats quite a different thing.
So as the US military planes come and go through Shannon to places like Israel, Romania (where the US has jusr activated a missile defence system in a show of aggression against Russia), Turkey and elsewhere, the Minister for Foreign Affairs hides behind technicalities and at best half-truths about what is going on at Shannon.
Meanwhile more and more people die in wars being fought or supported by imperialist powers, in parts of the world they have no right to be in. And Irish civil servants and politicians are prepared to lie or to pretent not to know in order to support these wars. Innocent people are being killed in their tens of thousands, and millions of people are being displaced from their homes. The world is becoming a more dangerous place as a result of the "war on terror".
And yet we make excuses for the US, and support their militarised aggression wholeheartedly.