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Troop Numbers Down at Shannon but Irish Support for US Wars Goes On

The number of US troops passing through Shannon Airport has dropped since the start of 2012. Shannonwatch investigations have revealed that the number of troop carriers using the airport is down, and the Minister for Transport has confirmed that only 45,000 troops passed through between January and April. This is an average of less than 12,000 a month, which is considerably lower that the monthly average of 20,000 in 2011.

Shannonwatch stress that the drop in US troop movements through Shannon is not because of any efforts by the Irish government to restore the country’s neutrality, or to respect international law and human rights. It simply reflects changes to the US military’s air mobility arrangements and does not reduce Irish complicity in unjust wars in any way.

Irish Government Should Act Now to Save Lives in Afghanistan

The killing of at least 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, by a 38 year old US army Staff Sergeant near Kandahar in Afghanistan was an appalling act of brutality and will have inevitable repercussions. US military spokespersons described the perpetrator as deranged, but sadly his actions follow a pattern of murder and human rights abuse by US and NATO personnel and the people they train. In 2011 a group of American soldiers were found to have been part of a "kill team" that deliberately murdered Afghan civilians for sport. In January of this year a video surfaced showing US marines urinating on the corpses of three insurgents. And earlier this month the UN reported that NATO and Afghan security forces were between them responsible for 410 civilian deaths in 2011. This was about 14% of the total number of civilians killed in the country.

Not only was the killing of 16 innocent people on Sunday deranged, the entire war waged by the US and NATO against Afghanistan could also be described as deranged and inappropriate from the beginning.

Extraordinary U-Turn on Extraordinary Rendition by Labour Leader in Government

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Táiniste Eamon Gilmore this week demonstrated an extraordinary change of heart about Ireland’s role in renditions. His claim that there is no evidence Shannon Airport has ever been used for this purpose is a complete u-turn from the views he and the Labour Party expressed when in opposition. Up until he took ministerial office he demanded that the Irish government inspect suspect aircraft going through Shannon. Now he is denying the existence of evidence that the airport has been repeatedly involved in such human rights abuse.

Alarming Number of Munitions Flights through Shannon in 2011

Munitions of war were brought through Shannon Airport on almost 1200 planes in 2011 according to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar. The Minister also said that the number of US troops that passed through the airport during the year was "under 250,000" although he failed to say how much under. Nonetheless the figure indicates that an average of well over 600 foreign troops carrying dangerous weapons passed through Shannon every day in the 12 months up to 31st December.

The Department of Transport deals with requests to carry munitions of war or dangerous goods on civilian aircraft through Ireland or Irish airspace. This is in accordance with the Air Navigation, Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods Orders of 1973 and 1989. If weapons are being carried on board an aircraft the operator is obliged to seek an exemption from a long standing prohibition on their carriage. In 2011 the number of applications for such exemptions was 1393. A total of 1382 permits were issued, 86% of which were for planes landing at Shannon Airport.

Supporting US Wars Costs Ireland Over 4 Million Euro a Year

A report launched today by Shannonwatch shows that US military use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace costs the Irish state in excess of €4 million euro a year. This is as a result of the Garda policing arrangements at the airport, the use of the Defence Forces to provide additional security, and air traffic subsidies. When once-off costs are taken into account the figure is likely to be much higher.

The report shows that since 2006 the average annual cost of services provided by the Gardai at Shannon Airport is €2.3 million. This includes salaries and allowances, overtime, travel and subsistence expenses, and other non-pay expenditure.  The Irish Army is also deployed at Shannon to provide assistance in securing the airport. For this the Irish people have been paying an average of €285,000 a year since 2006.

Between 2003 and 2010 it has cost the Irish state a total of €25 million to cover the costs of foreign military aircraft using Irish-administered airspace. A large percentage of these flights are U.S. planes en route to war destinations in the Middle East and southwest Asia as well as other parts of Europe.

Anti War Groups Welcome the Inauguration of an Anti-War President

Peace and anti-war groups in Ireland including PANA, the Irish Anti War Movement (IAWM), Shannonwatch and Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW) have expressed their hope that the inauguration of Michael D Higgins as the 9th President of Ireland will further the cause of peace, and will bring a renewed focus on the importance of Irish neutrality. These are issues that he has passionately defended throughout his political career, and it is hoped and expected that he will continue to do so as president.