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.

“Mayor Long drew a disturbing parallel between the US troop business at Shannon and support provided from the US to the IRA in the 1970s and 80s,” said John Lannon of Shannonwatch . “However he ignores the trauma and suffering caused by both of these. He must surely be aware of the grief caused by IRA bombings and shootings throughout the islands of Ireland and its nearest neighbour, and know that the same grief is experienced by families of loved ones killed in the war in Afghanistan”.

The consequences of the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which were facilitated by Shannon Airport, are even more far-reaching and much more devastating than the IRA campaign. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed during combat operations in Iraq, Thousands of Afghan men, women and children are still being killed every year in the ongoing war, and the civilian death toll is increasing. The government is failing to control security or enter into negotiations with the Taliban. The Taliban in turn refuse to enter any negotiations until all foreign troops leave the country. The drugs trade in Afghanistan has increased massively during the US occupation, and corruption is rife in the country right up to government level.

In addition more than 4,200 US soldiers who fought in Iraq returned home in body bags. Added to that there have been over 2,500 US/NATO deaths reported in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.  Many of the US troops that Mayor Long welcomes to Shannon are being killed brutally and unnecessarily, leaving loved ones behind.

“The US Department of Defense is now spending close to seven billion dollars a month on the war in Afghanistan, while its domestic economy is in tatters. It is little wonder therefore that the majority of Americans want the US to withdraw immediately” said Mr Lannon.  “When that happens the US military will have no further need for Shannon Airport. Without an alternative strategy to the current war business it will then be unsustainable as a regional airport.  And it will become clear that the millions spent by our government to secure Shannon for the US military should have been put to better use.”

The economic benefit of the arrangement with the US military is minimized by the fact that every year the Irish taxpayer pays more than €2 million to police the airport and more than €2.5 million in air traffic control subsidies on behalf of foreign military aircraft.

Whatever the economic benefit,  the death toll resulting from the US troops’ presence in Afghanistan is too high a price to pay.

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