Revelations over the manner in which Sergeant Maurice McCabe and others were treated because they dared to tell the truth once again calls into question the silence of Gardai over the failure to search suspected CIA rendition planes and US military aircraft at Shannon. We have repeatedly presented evidence (or what the authorities like to call "information") about breaches of the law at Shannon, yet these systematically are ignored.
Yet we know there are Gardai who agree with us when we say inspection of planes is necessary.
And we have been told about "instructions" from the Attorney General, and about "policy decisions" not to search CIA aircraft.
We've had peace activists arrested, sometimes for simply being in a car park taking photographs.
We are physically restrained from entering the airport - the most recent example being when we organised a demonstration against the US immigration ban and wanted to deliver letters to the airport authorities.
We've had hotel bookings cancelled without any plausible explanation.
Two weeks ago, Clare Daly TD asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality to confirm the number of formal requests for the search of military planes by An Garda Síochána at Shannon Airport that were acceded to or acted upon in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The Minister confirmed that there were no fewer than 30 requests in respect of military aircraft which were on the runway at Shannon Airport during the period 2014 to 2016. But she then dismissed each and every one of them out of hand by saying:
"An Garda Síochána has no role in relation to the inspection of foreign State or military aircraft which, in accordance with international law, enjoy sovereign immunity."
So a very questionable anachronistic doctrine of sovereign immunity is being applied to military aircraft of a foreign state. In so doing, it is being used as a basis for turning a blind eye to complicity in torture, illegal transit of weapons, and the presence of war criminals at Shannon. In hierarchical terms, fundamental rights like prohibition against torture should always supersede any attempts to claim state immunity. Yet the rank and file Gardai have been told to ignore almost certain breaches of these fundamental rights at Shannon because the planes "enjoy" sovereign immunity.
There is very little enjoyment for the people affected by US military invasion and occupation.
The Minister also said that "[e]ach request to search an aircraft is assessed on an individual basis and is based on the specific information and detail available regarding that particular aircraft. The information is examined and a decision is then made as to whether sufficient grounds exist which would allow the Gardaí to invoke a particular statutory power to search the aircraft."
As far as we know virtually every request to search a US military aircraft, or a US military contracted aircraft, or an aircraft linked to CIA rendition, has been ignored by the Gardai at Shannon. They claim to have inspected some suspect rendition planes in the last decade and to have discovered that they were not involved in anything illegal. But their efforts could certainly not be described as systematic or thorough. Anyone who takes even a cursory look at the sample of 41 complaints made to the Gardai which we included in out 2014 Submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions would see that there is something wrong.
A large number of the complaints were either ignored or responded to inappropriately, often by forcibly removing the complainant from the airport, and in some cases arrest. This has resulted in further complaints having been made to the Garda Ombudsman in relation to Garda behaviour. They too have resulted in the behaviour of the Gardai being upheld, often despite clear evidence of their wrongdoing.
Incidentally, the list of 41 complaints is not a comprehensive list, as the actual number of complaints made by peace and human rights activists at Shannon since 2002 is well over 100.
The behaviour of the Gardai at Shannon demonstrates a systemic failure to investigate potential breaches of international law linked to the US and CIA use of the airport. And the evidence indicates that this failure is not a simple act of omission. It has nothing to do with lack of resources or lack of evidence. The Gardai and the responsible Ministers know what human rights and legal experts have said in relation to the misuse of Shannon Airport by the US military and CIA. They have the evidence from Shannonwatch. And yet the men and women who took an oath on joining An Garda Síochána to discharge their duties "with fairness, integrity, regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality, upholding the constitution and the law and according equal respect to all people" are being forced to turn a blind eye.
They are allowing the airport to be used in contravention of a range of international laws, while literally turning their backs to these breaches. Every time a group of peace activists gather at the airport the Gardai stand in line to physically restrain them from entering if necessary.
As a result of the number of aircraft inspection requests being made by Shannonwatch members and others, we now have a new and even more farcical element added to proceedings at Shannon. The Gardaí have developed a special form to record details of requests to search and investigate US military planes at the airport. They then proceed to file the requests, without every doing another thing with them.
It's yet another example of Gardai ignoring the law and impeding the course of justice.
We recommend that everyone take the opportunity to use this new Warplane Inspection Request Form. In fact you should ask your local Garda Station to stock a few so that requests can be made anywhere in the country, whenever a US military plane lands at Shannon.