Freedom of Information Request Reveals Details of Munitions Through Ireland in 2014

Shannonwatch have received details under freedom of information on all requests for exemption under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order, 1973, as amended, for the carriage of weapons and munitions through Irish airports and airspace in 2014. In total there were 606 requests made. The official figure for the m=number approved by the Minister for Transport is 584.

The information obtained shows that

  • Over 270 flights were given permits to take weapons or explosives through Shannon Airport in the year. Most of these were US troop carriers
  • Most of the troop carriers were operated by Omni Air International but others included  National Airlines (13), Atlas Air (6), Delta Airlines (4) and North American Airlines (2).
  • Atlas Air were given permission to land an aircraft carrying class 1 explosives, cartridges and power device (in August 2014)
  • A further 288 flights were granted permits to take weapons and explosives through Irish airspace. Most of these were troop carriers operated by Atlas Air but they also included Southern Air and Kalitta Air flights carrying cartridges, small arms and similar material.
  • Permits were also granted to civil airlines that were not identified by the Department of Transport. These were carrying automatic and semi-automatic weapons, machine gun parts and other war related material.
  • The official count of permits requests that were refused is 22. It is known that at least some of these were refused after consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but the specific reasons for the refusals are not known.
  • Almost half (44%) of the flights granted permission to take "munitions of war" through Shannon or Irish airspace were coming from the US on their way to forward operating bases. Most of the rest (49%) were on their way back to the USA. In other words over 90% of the permits were granted to planes on US military business.
  • The main destinations for US troop flights through Shannon on their way from the US were Kuwait, Romania and Kyrgyzstan. Overflights by troop carriers were also destined for Germany, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.

In his evidence to the Petitions Committee on 18 February 2015, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donoghue said "In accordance with the provisions of the 1973 Order, my Department operates a procedure under which airlines wishing to carry weapons or munitions through Irish airspace or airports must apply for each individual flight at least 48 hours in advance. My Department seeks the views of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in relation to foreign policy issues and the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to security issues."

Given the lack of clarity on many of the permit requests we don't have confidence that this is done or that it provides the proper level of oversight. There should be no US weapons or troops passing through Shannon or Irish airspace since we claim to be neutral. But even with the current situation we have a lot of questions which the various Ministers have not yet answered satisfactorily. Among these are:

1. What level of oversight of the permit requests was there from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)? What sort of views did they express in relation to all the planes going through Shannon in 2014?

2. Have DFAT or the Minister for Transport any idea what wars the troops passing through Shannon or Irish airspace were fighting, or where the weapons were going to be used?

3. Why were certain permit requests refused and some allowed? - like for example, an Atlas Air flight from RAF Brize Norton in March. Many other Atlas Air flights were granted permits.

4. Did any of the weapons or explosives taken through Irish airspace make their way into the hands of ISIS or other similar groups? How do we know if they didn't? What precautions did DFAT take?

There are several records that require further investigation. For example:

  • A permit request on 9th Nov that was granted for an Atlas flight from Canada to Israel simply lists "Aerospace equipment containing anhydrous ammonia". Ammonia can be used for many things from refrigeration, and fertiliser, to manufacture of explosives. How would the Dept satisfy themselves as to the purpose of this cargo on such vague information? Aircraft parts tend not to need refrigeration.
  • Request in April - Kalitta Air flight from McGuire Air Force Base to Ramstein with Rocket Motors (part number UN # 0186), Cartridges, Power Device (UN # 0276), Explosive Blasting, Type B (UN # 0082), Detonating Fuses (UN # 0410) and Detonating Fuses (UN # 0367) - about a dozen kg of explosives each.
  • A permit request on 27th April which was granted. It has the Airline and Flight number redacted. It's a flight from the UK to the US and cargo description refers to 4 x MK44 Gun Sections and also 2 x Javelin Parts. The FGM-148 Javelin is an anti-tank missile. The MK 44 is a vehicle mounted gun (it weighs 160kg) which fires armour piercing incendiary rounds at a high rate of fire.
  • A permits granted to Atlas Air in May which was for a flight from the US to Kabul, overflying Ireland, listed 918kg of explosives in demolition charges, and 432kg of explosives in "weapons cartridges" Where the form asks "Is the packaging in accordance with ICAO Technical Instructions?" the answer is "NO". Another similar flight in June listed 3776kg of explosives in cartridges.

We will be asking these and many more questions of the Ministers for Transport and Foreign Affairs and Trade in the coming weeks.

In the meantime the full list of permit requests, where the planes were coming from and going to, and whether they landed in Ireland is available here.

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