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. 

US Veterans for Peace To Attend Shannon Vigil Next Sunday

Members of the U.S. organization Veterans For Peace will take part in a vigil at Shannon Airport action on Sunday next, November 13th, at 2 pm. The vigil is organised by Shannonwatch to demand an end to the ongoing US military use of the airport, and to express opposition to the ongoing US occupation of Afghanistan. It will also call for action to be taken against landing US aircraft that are involved in renditions, illegal assassinations and other human rights abuse.

"Two-thirds of Iraq and Aftghanistan veterans do not believe these wars and occupations have done any good," says Gerry Condon, one of the representatives of Veterans For Peace who will be at Shannon.  "We want all the troops to come home now and we want an end to drone bombings and torture too".

"As an Irish American, I am really upset to see Irish neutrality being trampled upon by the US military.  Shannon Airport should not be used to ferry troops and weapons to war, or for CIA torture flights.  I hope the Irish people are as outraged as I am, and will join our protest at Shannon this Sunday afternoon at 2 pm."

Mayor of Limerick Needs to Rethink his Strategy for Shannon Airport

In light of media reports that the Fine Gael Mayor of Limerick Jim Long welcomes the continued presence of US troops at Shannon Airport, Shannonwatch urge him and all local politicians in the mid-West to develop a more sustainable and enlightened strategy for the airport. Business that leads to ongoing human rights abuses, the bombing of civilians, and the widespread suffering of children in Afghanistan is not good business.

The Mayor’s comments made no reference to foreign policy or Irish neutrality, but instead seem to be based on the belief that the troops are a “lifeline to the airport”. He was responding to the passing of a motion by Dublin City Council supporting calls to terminate the use of Shannon Airport by the US military. According to the reports he sees this as an attempt “to downsize and downgrade Shannon”. In fact the motion proposed the exact opposite, as it called for the airport to be established as an international hub for the storage and distribution of emergency humanitarian supplies. This has the potential to provide a much more sustainable future for the airport, while promoting peace and development instead of conflict and suffering.

Dublin City Council Opposes Use of Shannon Airport by US Troops

Shannonwatch welcomes the passing of a motion by Dublin City Council supporting calls to terminate the use of Shannon Airport by US troops. The motion which was proposed by Cllr. Larry O’Toole of Sinn Fein at the request of PANA (the Peace and Neutrality Alliance) states

“That this Council supports the Irish Peace Movement’s campaign to terminate the use of Shannon Airport by US troops on their way to and from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and calls for Shannon Airport to be established an an international hub for the storage and distribution of emergency humanitarian supplies as outlined in the Programme for Government”

Irish Government Fails Once Again to Acknowledge Ireland's Role in Renditions

Shannonwatch is disappointed, but not surprised, that the Irish Government has missed yet another opportunity to address violations of human rights at Shannon Airport, given that they are knowingly in breach of human rights there. Ireland’s National Report under the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review process which was published this week fails to even mention the repeated use of Shannon by U.S. rendition aircraft and their crews, or the ongoing movement of troops and weapons through the airport and Irish airspace without investigation of their possible involvement in war crimes. Complicity in torture, which has been happening at Shannon, is a serious breach of human rights and of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Under the UPR process the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States are reviewed every four years. Ireland's record will be reviewed for the first time in October of this year, and as a result the government has now submitted its blinkered report to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

President Obama's Visit to Ireland is Not Something To Celebrate

As Ireland prepares to welcome U.S. President Barack Obama to its shores, we should remember that he is the active commander in chief of a military that has engaged in prolonged and unjust wars and violated international law.  He has reneged on his clear and unequivocal promise to close Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre. In using Shannon Airport as a transit depot for his military and CIA activities he has colluded with successive Irish governments to continue our complicity in human rights abuse, to undermine our proud record as peacekeepers, and to erode Irish neutrality.  Instead of welcoming him with open arms, the Irish government should be addressing the shameful decline in Irish foreign policy standards. In particular they should immediately end U.S. military use of Shannon Airport.

Gardai now have the Evidence to Investigate Human Rights Violations and Other Possible Breaches of International Law at Shannon

In response to repeated requests for information linking aircraft at Shannon Airport to human rights abuse and war crimes, Shannonwatch are today providing the Gardai with evidence and supporting material to help them investigate violations of international and national law at the airport. While some of this information is already in the public domain, Shannonwatch are also making available details of specific aircraft which have been linked to renditions and covert munitions transportation from their own detailed records.

The body of evidence presented to the Gardai concerns the use of Shannon airport for refuelling aircraft associated with the CIA rendition programme and with war crimes committed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. This evidence is been made available on the eve of the eight anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. Much of it is based on the ongoing efforts of activists to monitor and record suspect renditions aircraft and military-related traffic through Shannon over those eight years.

Programme for Government should mean an end to U.S. Military use of Shannon Airport

Shannonwatch welcomes the commitment made in the new Programme for Government in Ireland that the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with international law will be enforced. If and when this is fully implemented it will ensure that Ireland is no longer supporting renditions, or facilitating the transit of armed troops and munitions through Shannon Airport to theatres of war. It will see a return to the country’s important status of being a neutral state.