Shannonwatch are gravely concerned by the ongoing refusal of the Department of Foreign Affairs to provide access to information about US military flights through Shannon. Citing "the creation and maintenance of trust and confidence between governments" the department have said they will not provide records requested under freedom of information (FOI) because it would hamper the international relations of the State.
"It's impossible to see how making aircraft details public could affect our relations with the US, or any other state, if what they tell us about the planes not being engaged in military operations is true" said Clare Daly TD who made the FOI requests. "Since Ireland claims to be a neutral State we should not be allowing foreign military within our territory on the scale that is happening today. And we should certainly not be doing it without informing the Irish people of the details."
Clare Daly continued "The refusal to provide a list of the US military planes that passed through Shannon or Irish airspace amounts to a cover-up of Irish support for a foreign military power and an attempt to deny our involvement in ongoing wars of aggression in the Middle East. It is in direct contravention of our obligations as a neutral state, and it makes us complicit in the displacement of millions of refugees from their homes."
A Red C poll earlier this year found that 57% of the Irish people oppose the United States use of Shannon Airport for military transit purposes. The figure excludes the 'Don't Knows' which were at 4%.
The poll, which was commissioned by TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly last March, also found that 6 out of 10 Irish people want neutrality to be enshrined in the Constitution. At present, Irish Neutrality is a policy choice, decided on by the Government of the day.
"Having access to details of the scale of foreign military use of Shannon is a matter of public interest" said John Lannon of Shannonwatch. "The covert nature of the US military use of the airport since 2002 demonstrates that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour have no interest in protecting Irish neutrality. In fact the opposite is the case; they have gone against the will of the Irish people by giving a militarised super-power unrestricted access to Shannon and Irish airspace."
"There is a clear lack of accountability in relation to the US military use of Shannon" said John Lannon. "The Department of Foreign Affairs' refusal to reveal what military planes has landed follows years of denials about rendition planes that also landed at Shannon. We cannot believe government claims that the US Air Force planes we see coming and going are unarmed and not engaged in military operations, especially when the Department refuse to tell us why they are there."
In total four freedom of information requests were refused by Department of Foreign Affairs. The requests sought lists of flights by foreign military aircraft that landed at Shannon between Jan 1st 2015 and June 30th 2016. Copies of statistical reports received by the Department in relation to US military aircraft that flew through Irish airspace were also requested.
In his response to an appeal of the original decision to refuse the FOI request last August, the Deputy Director of the International Security Policy Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Robert Jackson, claimed that the public interest in maintaining the "mutuality of trust with regard to communications between States" outweighed the public interest in disclosing information about the military flights.
"Our foreign policy is now being dictated by the US and its NATO allies" said John Lannon. The US has been invading, bombing, and supplying weapons to groups fighting in the Middle East for the last 15 years, and has been using Shannon as a covert operating base for its operations. It is most certainly a matter of public interest, not just in terms of foreign policy but also from a security and safety point of view. Every US military plane that passes through Shannon increases the risk of terrorist attack on our shores."
There were a total of 1,109 requests by foreign military aircraft to land in the State between Jan 1st 2015 and June 30th 2016. Of these, a staggering 947 (93%) were from the US.
Freedom of Information requests and initial refulal replies are available on the Department of Foreign Affairs website as follows: