Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar confirmed that his government wants to continue the use of Shannon Airport in US wars, and is even implementing new measures to facilitate failed and destructive American foreign policy. Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce business breakfast in Limerick on "Securing the Future of Shannon Airport", he responded to a question from Shannonwatch and PANA by confirming that quarter of a million troops a year come through the airport. He said America are our friends and that he wants to see the relationship continue. He even announced the opening of a new military pre-clearance facility at the airport.
The Minister was primarily addressing concerns raised by the business community that the future of Shannon Airport is at a crossroads at the moment, with declining passenger numbers and revenue streams. He expressed his commitment to a viable future for the airport and referred to capturing the entrepreneurial spirit of Shannon. He also said that Shannon Airport should remain in majority public ownership.
Based on figures provided by Minister Varadkar during his speech it would seem that every one in 6 people that passes through Shannon Airport these days is an armed US soldier. That is not the type of viability or entrepreneurship that Shannon requires at this time.
In answer to a question posed by Edward Horgan of Shanonwatch and PANA, the minister revealed that military pre-clearance is being put in place at Shannon starting with a number of test flights. Shannonwatch has heard rumours of this in 2011, and at the time another government minister expressed grave concerns about it. Shannonwatch is particularly worried about a reference Leo Varadkar made to cargo pre-clearance given the amount of war munitions passing through the airport (almost 1200 flights in 2011). We will be seeking an immediate and full explanation of what is involved.
For a party who have declared that "the way to pursue foreign and security policy is to put the issues honestly before the people", Fine Gael - and indeed their Labour colleagues in government - are demonstrating a flagrant disregard for Irish neutrality by promoting US military use of Shannon. They have clearly extended their "relationship" with the US military - and by extension US foreign policy - by implementing the military pre-clearance facility. They have done this without any public consultation or mandate from the Irish people.
Shannonwatch has always emphasised its support for Shannon Airport's role in the social and economic development of the Mid-West region. We support the concept of a humanitarian hub which has been proposed for the airport, provided that it is not a smokescreen for further military intervention around the world. But we will not tolerate the abuses of Irish neutrality, international law and human rights that take place at the airport.