Last Monday (March 8th) The Examiner reported that there have been nine instances of US troops stopping overnight at Shannon Airport with around one military flight per day landing this year. The newspaper reported that in response to a question from Paul Murphy TD, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney confirmed that between 1 January and 17 February 2021, diplomatic clearance was provided for landings of 44 foreign military aircraft in Ireland.
As reported in the Irish Times of Feb 27th, two more serious breaches of Covid 19 regulations by the US military have been discovered at Shannon. These are in addition to the three breaches we already reported.
In response to a Dail question by SInn Fein spokesperson John Brady TD, Foreign Affairs and Defence Minister Simon Coveney was forced to admit that a further 113 US soldiers were in breach of Covid 19 regulations at Shannon Airport during January this year.
By our calculations this brings to at least 413 the total number of US military personnel who were in breach of these regulations since January 1st.
The following letter was written to the National Clinical Director for Health Protection and the Department of Public Health in Limerick on February 9th, by a member of Shannonwatch. An acknowledgement was received, but otherwise there has been no reply to the issues raised.
I am contacting you to request your prompt intervention as Medical Officer of Health with regard to the life-threatening risk of infection posed to the population of the Mid-West and the whole population of Ireland by air travellers entering Ireland via Shannon Airport from the United States and the Middle East, where there is a high incidence of Covid-19.
Earlier this week we wrote about a US Air Force, Special Operations Command Dornier C-146A 'Wolfhound' aircraft registration 97-3093 that arrived in Shannon on 8th February from the USA, spent over 17 hours at the airport, and took off on the morning of 9th February.
Catherine Connolly TD asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs about the circumstances concerning the aircraft, the number of passengers and crew members on it, the local hotels in which the passengers and crew were accommodated overnight, if Covid-19 tests were carried out in respect of the passengers and crew, and the checks that were carried out to ascertain if weapons or munitions were being carried on the aircraft.
Shannonwatch call on the Irish government to explain why troops landing at Shannon on US military and military contracted flights were repeatedly allowed to overnight at local hotels over the last three weeks, despite restrictions on travel in the interests of public health.
On Jan 25th, passengers and crew from a US Navy plane that landed at Shannon were permitted to stay at a Limerick hotel. On Jan 28th, 226 troops from an Omni Air International plane stayed overnight in a number of Limerick hotels. Yet despite the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney saying the US authorities had assured him it would not happen again, it did. On February 8th a US Air Force Special Operations Command Dornier C-140A aircraft spent over 17 hours at Shannon and both crew members and passengers accommodated overnight in a local hotel.
Between Jan 25th and Feb 8th the US military breached Covid-19 regulations at Shannon Airport on at least three occasions. This was compounded by crew members and troops being allowed to go to local hotels where they stayed overnight without isolating. There have been claims of errors on the part of the US authorities; our Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said the issue of non-compliance with public health guidelines was a serious one; the US embassy said it takes it very seriously, and has apologised. But its hard to take any of their words seriously since they repeated the breaches of the regulations.
This is part of an ongoing pattern of disregard for regulations and the law by the US military at Shannon.
Its even harder to believe US assurances when one looks at the disregard they have shown for the people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and the many other countries that have been devastated by their wars and weapons supplies.
This week Catherine Connolly TD submitted a parliamentary question to ask the Minister for Transport if an exemption under the Air Navigation (Munitions of War,Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Orders 1973 and 1989 was granted by his Department in respect of Omni Air aircraft number N828AX call sign CMB549. It landed at Shannon Airport at 11.27am on Thursday 28th January, remained there overnight and took off again at 09.28 am on Friday 29th. She also asked for the number of US military personnel on board this aircraft; if the aircraft was carrying weapons or munitions given that the aircraft remained overnight, if the aircraft crew and military passengers were accommodated in a local hotel; if all persons on board this aircraft were required to produce a negative Covid-19 test on arrival in Ireland.
There were quite a few US air force executive type jets flying through Shannon Airport at the start of this week, as well as Omni Air planes carrying US troops.
US air force B737 number 05-0730 arrived at Shannon on Tuesday from Andrews Air base in Maryland and took off for Cairo Egypt about 00,55am.
There were also two troop carrying planes on Tuesday, most likely carrying US troops to northern Norway from a US base in North Carolina. Omni Air N846AX arrived from Cherrypoint NC, landed at Shannon about 9.21am and then flew on to Nordufoss Air Base in Norway, and Omni Air N207AX also arrived at Shannon from Cherrypoint NC at 6.46am and then flew on to Trondheim in northern Norway.
As Ireland takes its seat on the US Security Council, our Minister for Foreign Affairs said Ireland would hope to “build alliances to get practical things done”. He wants to see Ireland playing a constructive, impactful role, to try to build consensus, relationships and trust, and ensure Ireland becomes a credible voice (see Irish Times report).
“This means saying no at times and standing up for ourselves and our own principles, even when it is a friend coming calling.” he said.
And at the same time he is giving permission to the "friend" who comes calling at Shannon every day of the week, looking to use the airport to refuel troop carriers and other military planes on their way to and from warzones that the same "friend" has created in the Middle East.
Between Jan 1st and Oct 31st this year, permits were granted for an 236 US military aircraft to land at Shannon Airport. Eleven of the flights were subsequently cancelled according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
In the same time period, permits were granted for 38 military or state aircraft from 10 other countries. Twelve of these were French aircraft, 10 were Belgian, and 6 were from the Netherlands.All are members of NATO, and their presence at Shannon further underlines the involvement of Ireland in military alliances.