More Ministerial Confusion over Sovereign Immunity

Our Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore is finding it difficult to explain what sovereign immunity means in the context of the US military use of Shannon. Despite being asked a series of direct questions on the issue by Clare Daly TD, he repeated the mantra that it "is recognised as applying in respect of foreign state or military aircraft". But he didnt say what that means. (See Dáil debate on Military Aircraft Landings here)

Gilmore also seems to have redefined the concept of neutrality. In answering the questions in the Dáil he said that Ireland's policy of neutrality was characterised by "non-participation in military alliances". In other words supporting military alliances is ok with his brand of neutrality.

Minister's Statement on Sovereign Immunity for Military Aircraft Raises Serious Questions

The question of whether or not the Gardai can inspect US military aircraft at Shannon is something that the various personnel, agencies and services in the Department of Justice and Equality seem to have very different understandings of. The Minister says they can't. The Gardai themselves seem to think they can if there is good reason to. And at least one judge believes they can.

So who's right?

Only last week, on November 5th, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, said that "the Garda Síochána has no role in relation to the inspection of foreign State or military aircraft which, in accordance with international law, enjoy sovereign immunity." Sovereign immunity prevents a government or its subdivisions, departments, and agencies from being sued without its consent. In other words they are above the law.

Minister Makes More Excuses for the Failure to Search US Aircraft at Shannon

The Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter has claimed that the Garda Síochána has no role in relation to the inspection of foreign State or military aircraft at Shannon or other airports because they enjoy sovereign immunity. In effect this means that the government allows the US military to take whatever or whoever they want through Ireland, regardless of the human rights, security and other consequences.

The statement was made in response to Clare Daly TD who asked the Minister whether or not the Government or the Garda Commissioner has instructed Gardaí at Shannon not to search US military aircraft, or chartered aircraft transporting US troops, or aircraft associated with the CIA.

According to Minister Shatter the Garda Síochána has statutory powers of search and entry available to it under various legislative provisions, and these apply to aircraft as much as to any other type of private property.  

He was talking here about civilian as opposed to military aircraft.

Ireland, Global Wars and US Army Field Manual 3-07

This blog is a summary of a presentation by John Lannon of Shannonwatch to the Afri Hedge School 2013 'Resources, Conflict & Climate Change: The Links' in IT Blanchardstown on 5th November.

I recently had cause to read the US Army Field Manual 3-07 (FM 3-07), also known as their Stability Operations Field Manual. It's supposed to be a roadmap from conflict to peace, a practical guide to nation-building - which is defined as the process of structuring a national identity using the power of the state.

The opening few lines of the Field Manual are quite telling in terms of the real intent:

"Today, the Nation remains engaged in an era of persistent conflict against enemies intent on limiting American access and influence throughout the world. This is a fundamental clash of ideologies and cultures, waged across societal abysses separating rich ethnic and religious traditions and profound differences in perspective."

Minister Confirms Fixed Weapon on U.S. Aircraft at Shannon

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has had to concede that his statements about US military planes at Shannon not having weapons were incorrect. On Oct 15th, in answer to a parliamentary question, he said "I am aware of one landing at Shannon Airport ... in which a US military aircraft, contrary to notification, was found to be armed with a fixed weapon". He claimed that the landing, which was on September 5th, was an "administrative error".

The aircraft in question was a US Air Force Hercules AC-130W, registration 87-9288. It arrived in Shannon on September 5th and departed the following day.

Its important to reiterate here that we're talking about an armed aircraft at Shannon, not a pistol held by the crew, or personal weapons like rifles and pistols that come through all the time. The aircraft in question has a 30mm cannon and a laser guided missile system. So this is an large weapon, designed to cause great damage and potentially great loss of life. And it was sitting at the airport in Shannon, in "neutral" Ireland.

Twelve Years of Occupation in Afghanistan Remembered at Shannon

The twelfth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was marked by a peace vigil at Shannon on Oct 13th that was attended by close to 40 people. Gardai maintained an overt presence, despite the peaceful nature of this and all previous vigils. They were reminded of their responsibilities to uphold the law by those attending the vigil, and to end the practice of turning a blind eye to the warplanes passing through Shannon. As always, they maintained a stony silence when asked if they were concerned in any way about who or what might be on those planes.