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.

Responding to parliamentary questions from Sinn Fein TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, the Minister for Transport confirmed that most of the requests to carry munitions through Ireland were made by American civil airlines. Omni Air International which is the main airline carrying US troops through Shannon has between two and four flights a day through the airport, mostly going to and from Kuwait and Kyrygzstan. Both of these countries have large US military bases. The ones in Kuwait were the staging posts for the two invasions of Iraq and the occupation of that country since 2003, while the Manas “transit centre" in Kyrgysztan has been a crucial supply hub for the US war in Afghanistan since 2001.

"Like Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan, Ireland and Shannon have now become staging posts for US invasions and occupation" said a Shannonwatch spokesperson.  "The figures make a mockery of the notion of Irish neutrality, and show that successive governments have relinquished all interest in maintaining an independent Irish foreign policy." 

It was also revealed by Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter that the cost of policing arrangements at Shannon Airport for 2011 was €994,052. The total cost of assistance provided by the Defence Forces to the Gardai at Shannon Airport for the year was €259,739. Taken together these figures are an increase of almost €200,000 on the 2010 figures with this trend set to continue.

"Local media reports suggesting that the troop business will continue at Shannon have unfortunately been borne out so far in 2012" said the Shannonwatch spokesperson. "Minister Varadkar has said it is not possible to anticipate how many munitions requests will be made over the next year, or even to say what the expected use of Shannon Airport by the US military will be. This shows how insecure the war business is for the airport and the region. And it leaves Irish people in the dark over their involvement in current and future acts of war." 

"There are worrying signs that the US may be about to embark on a catastrophic invasion of Iran." said the Shannonwatch spokesperson. "While there are grave concerns over the current Iranian regime's human rights record, an intervention from the US would be a huge threat to peace in the entire region. We cannot allow Shannon to become part of this in the same way as Iraq and Afghanistan."

Shannonwatch monitor all US military traffic as well as suspected CIA aircraft landing at Shannon. In addition to the civilian troop carriers, they also recorded an average of 6 US Air Force and Navy aircraft a week at Shannon in 2011. These included Hercules C-130's, C-9's and a range of other aircraft. "The Irish state authorities have never reported on what these aircraft are carrying or what sort of missions they are on, probably because they've never asked." said Shannonwatch. "As far as we know there is no reporting mechanism, no inspections, and no effort made to ensure they are not involved in war crimes or human rights abuse.".

Ireland recently mourned the untimely death of one of its best investigative reporters, Mary Raferty. There is an urgent need for the type of professional, investigative reporting she was renowned for in relation to the ongoing use of Shannon Airport by the US military and CIA. The Irish people should be made fully aware of the extent to which their neutrality and their support for peace and human rights is being undermined.


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