Why is it so Hard for Government to Answer Simple Questions about the US Military Use of Shannon?

US Military refueller at Shannon on 22nd November

By way of example of our government's continuing refusal to provide any information about the US military use of Shannon Airport, we'd like to draw attention to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan's answer to a parliamentary question posed by Clare Daly TD on 26th November. The question was:

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the regular presence of US refuelling tankers at Shannon, such as the Hercules number 2311 present on 29 October 2014; if he will confirm if these tankers have been connected to the mid-air refuelling of any US military aircraft in Irish airspace; if his attention has been further drawn to the existence of over-flights by US military aircraft close to the times that these refuelling tankers took off or landed at Shannon airport; if so, if this indicates that some or all of these aircraft were involved in military operations while they were on Irish territory or in Irish airspace; the way this relates to US assurances that these aircraft are not on military operations and not armed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Court Summons for TDs who Attempted to Do What the Gardai Should be Doing

Shannonwatch have expressed their disappointment that the State has decided to summons TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace to appear before Ennis District Court on Wednesday December 3rd for peace actions, while at the same time failing to investigate complaints made about US military and other aircraft that may be in breach of international law.

The two TDs are charged with climbing the perimeter fence of Shannon Airport on 22nd July 2014, and with entering a part of the airport that they did not have permission to be in. The two deputies are adamant that they did not commit any offence however, and that they were simply there to do what the authorities would not do, which was to inspect two US military aircraft that may have been carrying weapons illegally.

Government Denying Presence of US Military Plane at Shannon

Over the last few weeks it has come to our attention that the Irish government may not know what US military planes are coming through Shannon.

Here's a photograph of a US Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules, registration 168073/QH, at Shannon on October 1st 2014. It is a mid-air refuelling tanker and its primary purpose is to refuel other US Air Force planes.

The Irish government Minister with responsibility for US military landings at Shannon is Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan. Here's what he said on October 7th when Clare Daly TD asked him for his views "on a Hercules C130, registration number 16/8073 being in Shannon Airport on 1 October 2014 at 9 a.m":

"The Shannon Airport Authority has confirmed that no aircraft matching this description landed at Shannon airport on 1 October 2014."

Naming the Dead: US Drone Attacks in Pakistan

Over the past decade more than 2,500 people have been killed by CIA drone strikes in the tribal areas of north west Pakistan according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Many of those who have been killed have been described as militants by media reports and officials. About a fifth of the dead are described as civilians. But little more is known about the majority of those that have been killed.

Terrorism laws raise questions about Shannon stopovers

Letter from Shannonwatch's Edward Horgan, published in today's Irish Examiner.

The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald announced additional terror offences in the Seanad on October 7 and expressed concern about the "recruitment and training for terrorist activities".

This decision is welcome. Terrorising people is a very serious crime, especially when the tools of terrorism including horrific killings, torture and most serious abuses of women and children.

The Islamic State, in Iraq and Syria, is guilty of all these crimes but it is not alone. Saudi Arabia is reported to have executed at least 26 people in August by publicly beheading them. Drone strikes by the US have killed more than 2,400 people in the past five years, almost half of whom were civilians, causing terror in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.

Shannonwatch Welcomes Oireachtas Petitions Committee Visit to Shannon

Shannonwatch welcomes the visit to Shannon Airport by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions. The visit which took place on October 2nd was a follow-up to a petition by Shannonwatch earlier this year. The petition called for the Government to investigate the use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace for the transit of US armed troops, munitions and other war material, as well as for the refuelling of CIA-associated aircraft involved in extraordinary rendition.

During their visit to Shannon, representatives of the Committee met with members of the Gardai including Chief Superintendent John Kerin and with airport officials before meeting again with Shannonwatch. They were informed that about 40,000 US troops had gone through Shannon so far this year. However Shannonwatch understands that airport officials said that US troops were not essential to the economics of Shannon Airport as they contribute relatively little, and that civilian passengers contribute far more with shopping, car parking and so on.

More Ministerial Half-Truths about Neutrality and Shannon

This is what neutrality and non-participation in military alliances looks like at Shannon

Today (24th Sept) Clare Daly TD asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan if he would specify in detail the arrangements that allow the facilitation of the US military on actions that contravene Irish neutrality and the Hague Convention and were not mandated by the United Nations. It was a written parliamentary question, and it got the following uninformative reply:

Ireland's policy of military neutrality is characterised by non-participation in military alliances. This policy has been underpinned by a set of complementary values which includes the protection of human rights; support for development; and the promotion of disarmament and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

Is Ireland Backing the Bombing of Syria?

On Sept 1st 2014 the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said "the invasion of Ukraine is against international law & must stop" (RTE News). He made no reference to role of NATO as one of the root causes of the Ukraine conflict.

On 22nd September 2014, the United States and its allies launched air strikes in Syria using warplanes, armed drones, and Tomahawk Cruise Missiles.

On Sept 23rd 2014, the same Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan stated in relation to the bombing in Syria, that "people will not be surprised. With regard to the air attacks targets need to be particularly precise, and of course innocent civilians need to be spared".

Weekend of Peace Events Planned for Shannon in October

Shannonwatch are inviting groups and individuals from around Ireland to join them in organising a series of peace events at Shannon Airport on the weekend of October 11th and 12th. The main event of the weekend will be a public demonstration on Sunday 12th at 2pm, calling for an end to the US military use of the airport.

The event is being co-organised and supported by a large number of groups including Shannonwatch, Galway Alliance Against War, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA), the Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM), Afri, and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC). Bus transport is being arranged from Dublin on Sunday 12th and as a result a large turnout is expected (contact details for the bus are given below).

Local Organisations Call on Mayor of Boston to Help Restore Irish Neutrality

The mid-West based human rights organisation Shannonwatch and Galway Alliance Against War welcome the visit of the Mayor of Boston Marty J Walsh, whose parents both come from Connemara, to Shannon and to Ireland. As he arrives into Shannon Airport this Friday morning (19th September) to commence a ten day trip to his ancestral Galway home, they urge him to use his influence to end the unnecessary and counterproductive transit of US troops through the same civilian airport that welcomes him.

"Friendship between the peoples of Ireland and the United States is very important to all concerned and we welcome back the son of Irish parents who were among hundreds of thousands forced to emigrate due to the very flawed economic and social policies pursued by successive Irish Governments up to the present time." said Edward Horgan of Shannonwatch.

Shannonwatch and Galway Alliance Against War remind Mayor Walsh that this Irish/United States friendship has been seriously damaged in recent years as a result of the transit of armed US troops and CIA rendition aircraft through Shannon Airport in breach of international laws on neutrality and the UN Convention Against Torture.