Agreement to Allow British Fighter Planes into Irish Airspace Further Erodes Neutrality

On Monday last it was revealed (Irish Examiner) that an agreement was reached some years ago between the Irish and British governments about protecting this country's airspace from terrorist threats. It appears that civil servants from the Department of Defence, Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) entered into a bilateral agreement with British counterparts which would allow British Tornado fighter jets to shoot down aircraft in Irish airspace if they are hijacked by terrorists for a 9/11-style attack.

The agreement permits the British military to conduct armed operations in Irish sovereign or Irish-controlled airspace, and was taken without consultation with the army.

Shannonwatch are extremely concerned at this further erosion of Irish neutrality.

"The main threat to State security is our lack of neutrality" said spokesperson John Lannon. "The US military planes and armed troops that pass through Shannon already make us a target for terrorist attacks. And having British fighter jets patrolling our airspace heightens rather than reduces the risk of attack."

"The apparent issue of civil servants dictating defence strategy and seemingly ignoring military expertise is extremely worrying" said former army commandant Edward Horgan. "So too is the serious risk of catastrophic mistakes due to faulty intelligence".

"Our island geography and neutrality are our best defence" he continued. "Ending the US military use of Shannon Airport is the most constructive thing that could be done right now to protect the internal security of the State. Inviting in more foreign warplanes is simply reinforcing our support for the militarised policies that were the root cause of today's terrorist attacks".

"The likely motivation for this agreement from the British point of view is to deal with threats over Irish airspace in order to protect the UK mainland. Britain is putting Irish citizens at risk, just as it did in World War II when it sought to drag Ireland into war with Germany".

It should also be noted that 29.5.1 of the Irish Constitution states that every international agreement to which the State becomes a party shall be laid before Dáil Éireann. "We now have a situation where an agreement permitting the British military to conduct armed operations in Irish sovereign airspace was put in place by civil servants without any discussion in the Dáil" said John Lannon. "This is unacceptable, and we call for an immediate debate on the matter as soon as the Dáil reconvenes."

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