Troop Numbers Down at Shannon but Irish Support for US Wars Goes On

The number of US troops passing through Shannon Airport has dropped since the start of 2012. Shannonwatch investigations have revealed that the number of troop carriers using the airport is down, and the Minister for Transport has confirmed that only 45,000 troops passed through between January and April. This is an average of less than 12,000 a month, which is considerably lower that the monthly average of 20,000 in 2011.

Shannonwatch stress that the drop in US troop movements through Shannon is not because of any efforts by the Irish government to restore the country’s neutrality, or to respect international law and human rights. It simply reflects changes to the US military’s air mobility arrangements and does not reduce Irish complicity in unjust wars in any way.

Less than 50 troop transportation flights passed through Shannon in May, compared to a monthly average of over 80 in 2011. Most of these were Omni Air International airplanes, taking armed troops to and from Afghanistan. Delta Air and North American Airlines have also taken armed US troops through Shannon in recent months.

Troop transportation aircraft like these are registered as civilian aircraft. They are governed by an international convention known as the Chicago Convention which states that no munitions of war may be carried in or above the territory of a State in civilian aircraft, except by permission of the State. In other words, planes carrying weapons cannot land in Ireland or fly over the country without getting a permit from the Minister for Transport.

The Minister granted munitions permits on 1382 occasions in 2011, even though this contravenes the Hague Convention on Neutrality. Most of these were US troop carriers.

In recent days the Minister has revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question from Padraig MacLochlainn that 306 permits were granted in the first four months of this year. Almost 80% of these were for aircraft that landed at Shannon.

Other US military aircraft such as the distinctive grey Hercules C-130’s also use Shannon on a regular basis. These are operated directly by the US Air Force or Navy and are not covered by the Chicago Convention. According to John Lannon of Shannonwatch there has been no appreciable drop in the number of these military planes coming through Shannon. “On average around 25 US Air Force or Navy aircraft came through Shannon every month in 2011. The figures for 2012 have been fairly similar, with close to 25 in both April and May.”

“The drop-off in troops is now having an impact on some airport-based businesses, which is something that the Irish government does not seem to have planned for” said John Lannon. “It also shows that even from an economic point of view Ireland’s continued support for US wars makes no sense.”

While the downturn in US troop flights through Shannon means there is little or no financial benefit for the region, Ireland’s complicity in amoral wars of aggression is as real as ever. “The Irish government are simply a compliant servant of global war industry. If they exercised their sovereign power and their moral obligation to uphold human rights, there would not just be fewer US troop flights at Shannon. There would be none.” said Mr Lannon.

Shannonwatch’s flight logs indicate that over 70 troop carriers passed through Shannon in both March and April. However the figures for the other months of 2012 were much lower.

“The Irish government and the airport authorities are either unwilling or unable to tell us if the downward trend in war traffic will continue. An invasion of Iran is a very real possibility over the coming months or years, and if that were to take place we might well find ourselves involved in another ill-conceived and unwinnable act of international aggression by the world’s most militarized nation.”

“Our government seems to have little respect for the notion of neutrality nowadays, but is prepared to turn a blind eye when human rights abusers and war criminals sit in the airport lounge at Shannon.”

Shannonwatch calls for an immediate and complete end to all US military use of Shannon airport. “It is not enough that the US army or CIA decide to stop using it for logistical reasons. The Irish government must tell them to leave.”

Share this