Ireland likely to continue to participate in NATO-led Mission in Afghanistan

It seems clear from the language used by the Minister for Defence this week in response to a parliamentary question from Clare Daly TD that the Government is planning to send further Irish soldiers to Afghanistan with the planned NATO follow-on mission. If they do that, the soldiers will be exposed to even greater danger than at present due to withdrawal of most of the NATO forces and the increased attacks by Afghan insurgents.

Shannonwatch is opposed to any such decision, and will make its position on this clear to the government. We encourage others to do the same, and hope that Dublin-based activists might even be able to make their opposition known through protests and placards outside the Dail. This needs to be done as soon as possible to influence the government decision so it is hoped that small daily protests could be undertaken at lunchtime, starting next week.

Vision Airlines - Back in the Air Bridge War Business at Shannon?

Vision Airlines Boeing 767, registration N661CS at Shannon on 3rd December

On Wednesday 3rd December, on the way to Ennis District Court where TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace were appearing as a result of their efforts to promote peace, Shannonwatch stopped off at the airport and photographed two US warplanes. One was a US Navy Hercules C-130T registration 164993/BD and the other was a C-40 (also US Navy). Coincidentally this is the same type of aircraft that were at Shannon airport on the day that Clare and Mick Wallace went in to do their search and investigation.

Tucked away at Gate 42, which is where the chartered aircraft that transport US troops through Shannon normally park, Shannonwatch also spotted a white Boeing 737, registration N661CS. This is owned by a Texas company called Spectre Air Capital LLC but is operated by an airline called Vision Airlines. The name may not mean a lot to people who watch planes come in and out of Shannon but for a period between 2005 and 2010 their jets averaged two flights a week from Dulles, Virginia to Iraq and Afghanistan. These flights were linked to the US government's "Air Bridge Program" which assisted the flow of military personnel, equipment and materiel needed to support the war in Afghanistan and the continuing operations in Iraq.

A Small Bit of Truth from the Minister but it Raises More Serious Questions

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about how the government was denying the presence of a US military plane at Shannon. Well today the Minister for Foreign Affairs finally told the truth and admitted that the plane had been there. Perhaps he was motivated by the knowledge that we had proof, and that it was pointless to continue to say that the US Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules, registration 168073/QH, was not at Shannon on October 1st.

Here's what the Minister had to say (see original transcript here):

"Arising from new information which has been brought to my attention, I would like to correct the record of the House in respect of an error in responses to four parliamentary questions from Deputy Clare Daly starting on 7 October 2014 and finishing with Question No. 110 on 20 November 2014.

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."