Shannonwatch Call for Investigation of Rendition Flights Through Shannon at Oireachtas Committee Meeting

Shannonwatch called today on the government to explain why information received by the Gardai about rendition planes at Shannon Airport was not followed up on. In a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions they said that over one hundred complaints and requests to search suspect aircraft had been made between 2003 and 2013, none of which were properly addressed. They also reiterated their calls for an end to the US military use of Shannon, and for full disclosure of all agreements made with the US authorities in relation to this use.

Shannonwatch made a number of recommendations to the Oireachtas Committee, including that the government should establish an independent and impartial inquiry into the use of Shannon in the CIA's illegal renditions programme. "This inquiry should examine the reasons for the failure to inspect suspect rendition aircraft. And the outcome of the inquiry should be made public" said John Lannon who was part of the Shannonwatch delegation that addressed the Oireachtas Committee.

Shannonwatch meeting with Joint Oireachtas sub-Committee on Public Petitions

Date: 
Wednesday, 18 June, 2014 - 16:15

Following a petition to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions by Shannonwatch members and supporters, we have been invited to meet and brief the Committee on the US Military and CIA use of Shannon airport and Irish airspace.

The Committee seeks to focus its work on investigating and identifying improvements in the delivery of public services. As part of its remit, it receives and processes public petitions submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas, and regularly engages with the Ombudsman and other oversight bodies.

Our original petition was as follows:

Case Dismissed: Peace Activists Have No Charges to Answer

On Tuesday May 27th, two members of Shannonwatch appeared in Ennis District Court to answer a charge under the Public Order Act, Section 8. This related to an incident that took place on October 13th 2013.

On that date, Dr. Edward Horgan and Tim Hourigan were at Shannon Airport prior to the start of Shannonwatch's monthly vigil, and had gone up to the airport for their regular routine of taking photographs of any suspicious aircraft and meeting others in the hotel for tea, before joining the vigil.

They had photographed two suspicious aircraft, and were heading back to the hotel, when they were met by two Gardai who accused them of having trespassed in a restricted area. The planespotters had in fact been on the public footpath next to Long Term Car Park 4, so they told the Gardai that they denied any accusation of trespass. The Gardai then invoked the Public Order Act and directed the peace activists to 'leave the area'.

Remembering Departed Friends

Shannonwatch was saddened by the passing of two of our dear friends in the last week and a half. On Tuesday 29th May, Esta Carter, who was a lifelong struggler against injustice and a stalwart of the peace movement, died. Just one week later on Tuesday 6th May, another wonderful person, Anne Clinton, passed away. She too was always on the side of the oppressed and campaigned tirelessly to end war and oppression.

Garda Reports of Instructions Not to Search Rendition Planes Need to be Clarified

Recent disturbing revelations in relation to the behaviour of Garda management and the Minister for Justice give new significance to statements made by members of An Garda Siochana about instructions not to search suspected CIA rendition and US military aircraft at Shannon Airport.

Over the last eight years, Gardai of various ranks have told members of Shannonwatch that an "instruction" or "policy decision" or "letter of advice" has existed in relation to the searching of these aircraft.

In 2006, in a conversation with a member of Shannonwatch, a detective superintendent referred to a "letter of advice" from the Attorney General to the Garda Commissioner that US military and CIA associated aircraft at Shannon were not to be searched. Again on 30th October 2007, at Shannon Airport, an officer informed the same Shannonwatch member that Gardaí at Shannon had been instructed by the Attorney General not to search US military or CIA associated aircraft at the airport.

Statement from Margaretta D'Arcy on her Release from Mountjoy Prison

At a News Conference in Buswell's Hotel today (Saturday, March 22, 2014), immediately following her release from Mountjoy Prison, peace activist, artist and human rights campaigner, Margaretta D'Arcy, discussed her nine weeks in both Limerick and Mountjoy Prisons and the reasons for her arrest.

Hellfire Missiles Coming Through Shannon?

A US Hercules C-130 photographed at Shannon last week

 

A report in The Guardian Newspaper on 16 March 2014 reveals that 100 Hellfire missiles were sent by the US Government to Iraq over the past few weeks. It is not known whether these weapons were transported through Shannon Airport, but we do know that several US Air Force Hercules C130 aircraft were refuelled at Shannon Airport during this period, and that none of these aircraft were searched by Gardai, or by the Irish army who were guarding these aircraft while they were at Shannon, in some cases overnight.

Shannon Protests are not Going Away

Last month the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar expressed surprise that the number of protests at Shannon Airport has increased in the past two years despite a two-thirds drop in US military flights in the same period. We're glad he's noticed our peace efforts and we can assure him there will be plenty more.

This weekend showed that the protests are definitely not going away until such time as the US military use of the airport ends. On Saturday International Women's Day was marked by a gathering at the site of the original women's peace camp from 2002/2003 (see separate report). And on Sunday people gathered to once again demand an end to the ongoing US military use of the airport, and to show their solidarity with imprisoned peace activist Margaretta D'Arcy.

Report on International Women's Day Peace Camp at Shannon

Fiona Wheeler

On Saturday, 8th March 2014, one of the windiest days ever experienced at Shannon, a Peace Camp was held to celebrate International Women's Day. It was just over eleven years since the initial Peace Camp had been established there,  prior to the  invasion of Iraq in March 2003. One of the original founders of the camp, Margaretta D'Arcy,  is currently in Mountjoy prison serving a three month sentence for going onto the runway and refusing to sign a bond  undertaking not to  do so again  to protest against the continuing use of Shannon Airport by the U.S. Military.   

Apparently Ireland is a neutral country, at least according to Bunreacht na hÉireann / The Irish Constitution it is. Irish Neutrality is, however,  'more honoured in the breach than in the observance', especially at Shannon Airport.

Almost 70,000 Armed Soldiers Through Shannon in 2013

An Omni Air International troop carrier parked at Shannon Airport

The Minister for Transport reported last week that 69,840 U.S. troops passed through Shannon in 2013. While this was down on the 101,108 that passed through in 2012, it is still equivalent to an army 7 times the size of the Irish defence forces. And it is still unacceptable, as the Irish people have not given their permission for any foreign troops to pass through Irish territory - or airspace.

The Minister, Leo Varadkar, also revealed that almost 700 "civilian" aircraft carried munitions through or over Ireland in 2013. Presumably most of these would have been U.S. troop carriers, as all 69,840 U.S. troops that came through Shannon would have had guns with them.