Wikileaks Ireland Cables: Time for Government Action

Recent wikileaks revelations show that successive Irish governments were more worried about being caught lying over renditions and Shannon than they were in stopping kidnapping and torture. International law and human rights were never even mentioned as Irish politicians looked after their own careers and provided unwavering support for U.S. foreign policy and wars.

The present government now has a responsibility to immediately end the use of Shannon Airport for purposes not in line with international law, as they promised in their programme for government. This should not only cover renditions; it should also deal with breaches of humanitarian and neutrality law. And the only way to do this is to end the U.S. military use of Shannon.

The Irish Independent's coverage of wikileaks cables from Ireland has put the spotlight once again on Fianna Fail and Green Party willingness to accept whatever the Americans wanted to take through Shannon - so long as the Irish public didn't find out. We know from the cables that they took Apache helicopters to Israel and that these were not listed as munitions of war. They may also have taken prisoners through in innocent looking white executive jets or the military's Hercules C-130 aircraft.

One of the cables (04DUBLIN1770) says that in a 2004 meeting at the U.S. embassy, former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern “said that while there are no plans to alter arrangements with the U.S. at Shannon, the subject is ‘beginning to worry people.’  He noted the Irish government's repeated defense of the U.S. military's use of Shannon to parliament, in which he and other ministers referred to U.S. assurances that enemy combatants have not transited Shannon enroute to Guantanamo or elsewhere. And he then asked the ambassador  ‘Am I all right on this?’.

We are not told the ambassador's reply. But we are informed that Senator John McCain told the ambassador he planned to raise Shannon with the Washington Administration "to underscore how very important it is that the U.S. not ever be caught in a lie to a close friend and ally.” As Harry Browne notes in an article published last Thursday, McCain’s words appear to indicate that he was less trusting of US assurances on Shannon than the Irish government was.

This issue was covered in an RTE Primetime programme in which Shannonwatch's Ed Horgan highlighted that fact that Ireland has failed to uphold the UN Convention Against Torture by simply relying on diplomatic assurances that Shannon has not been used for renditions. These assurances are worthless - after years of denials that U.S. rendition flights had passed through British territory it was discovered that two flights had stopped on Diego Garcia in 2002. There is no reason to believe the same was not true of Shannon.

Ireland has ratified the Convention Against Torture through the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000. It therefore has an obligation to arrest and charge anyone reasonably suspected of having committed torture.

Ireland must now live up to its responsibilities to comply with international law. A former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Justice was quite sure that rendition planes had come through Shannon (see wikileaks cable 04DUBLIN1739), so that alone should be enough for a full and transparent investigation of the matter. But much more is required of the current Irish government. By continuing to make Shannon Airport available to the U.S. military, Ireland is already complicit in war crimes and is violating international humanitarian law. We are also breaking neutrality law (the Hague Convention), despite the pretence of successive governments that we are a neutral state.

Since it is now likely that no more prisoners are being taken through Shannon Airport for torture purposes it is already too late to close that stable door. But it not too late to ensure that the same thing never happens again. Nor is it too late to close the door on U.S. troops and munitions transiting to Shannon. The present government have said they will "enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law". It is time they showed this is not another meaningless public statement by a government engaging in more cover-up and lies.

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