Shannon Air Show Ignores Airport’s Involvement in War

As Shannon Airport prepares to stage an air show on July 18th to celebrate its achievements in the world of aviation, peace groups in Ireland issue a reminder that its recent history is not one to be proud of. Since 2001 the airport has been used by the US military as a gateway to wars in the Middle East. These wars have resulted in the death of innocent men, women and children, left millions of people homeless, and destroyed communities and entire countries.

"While it is fitting to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the first commercial transatlantic flight from Shannon Airport and to acknowledge its important role in aviation in Ireland, we cannot ignore the fact that in the last 15 years it has been used to illegally invade Iraq and Afghanistan and has been part of the CIA's global campaign of kidnapping and torture" said John Lannon of Shannonwatch.

"Shannon became the original airport gateway between the US and Europe and was the birthplace of Duty Free. It is now a gateway to human suffering and war." added Mr Lannon.

Irish Air Corp Planning Their Move To Shannon?

We've had more war planes at Shannon Airport during the past week. Interestingly two of them on Wednesday 1st July belonged to the Irish Air Corps - there were CASA marine patrol aircraft, which in fairness have never been involved in wars. Coincidently the previous evening 30th June in the Dail there was a debate on the Irish Defence Green Paper and proposed White Paper. There were very good contributions on Irish neutrality and US military abuse of Shannon Airport by Clare Daly TD, Mick Wallace TD and Padraig McLoughlin TD Sinn Fein. Among Clare Daly's excellent suggestions was the Irish Army Air Corps should be moved to Shannon Airport, and Baldonnel Aerodrome sold off to Michael O'Leary and Ryanair.

Minister Charlie Flanagan Tries Explaining Away our Neutrality when Appearing Before Petitions Committee

Almost a year ago Shannonwatch presented a petition to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petition. It called for an investigation into the US Military and CIA use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace. After our oral and written submission, a delegation from the Committee visited Shannon in October to hear a range of perspectives on the issue. The Committee also engaged with Niall Burgess, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (transcript here), as well as with Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe TD (his statement here), who discussed issues raised in the petition relevant to his Department.   

On June 16th the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan TD appeared before the committee. The transcript of the session is available here, and there are many aspects of what he said that we would challenge or disagree with. Here are some of the main points.

Waplanes are not a Matter of Fun and Entertainment

While in south eastern Turkey last month, Shannonwatch's Edward Horgan was acutely aware of the fierce fighting taking place just across the border in Syria. Dozens of people were killed, possibly hundreds but no one was counting the dead and injured. US warplanes were supporting Syrian Kurds, who are fighting against both the Syrian Assad regime and the Islamic State (ISIS). There are reports that "ethnic cleansing" is taking place in towns and villages just south of the Turkish border, by the multiple groups fighting each other in this devastated region. Many of those fleeing the fighting were Syrian Kurds but they were being prevented from entering Turkey, because Turkey fears that they might support Turkish Kurdish community struggle for autonomy. The Assad regime has been reported to be dropping barrel bombs on civilians. However these barrel bombs are very primitive and ineffective compared with the very powerful bombs being dropped by the US air force in this region.

Shannon Airshow Cannot Ignore the Airport's Complicity in War

Shannon Airport will host what they call an "air display extravaganza" on July 18th, to mark the 70th anniversary of the first commercial transatlantic flight at the airport. They say the airshow will provide a visual treat from leading aerobatics performers, parachutists, helicopters, jet fighters and stunt fliers. 

While the airshow will glorify war by presenting jet fighters as entertainment, the official proceedings are unlikely to highlight the airport's complicity in war and human rights abuse over the last 15 years. Shannonwatch intend to correct that by organising a peace vigil to coincide with the airshow, and we are asking for your help. Hopefully as many supporters of peace can make it down to Shannon to show their disagreement with US military abuse of Shannon Airport on July 18th. 

The timing of the peace vigil will be flexible but we will aim for 2pm. It will probably be located before the entrance to the airport but more details will be provided closer to the day. 

Government Attempts to Deal with Terrorism Ring Hollow

The Government's Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Amendment Bill 2014 is passing through the Oireachtas at the moment. It was initially published in August of last year, and it creates three new offences. These are public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism. The offences carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison on conviction or on indictment in the higher courts.

At the time of its publication the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said that it lays the groundwork for Ireland's ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism in due course.

She went on to say "We stand with our European colleagues in doing everything in our power to ensure that there are no gaps in our law that can be exploited by those who would inflict terror and mayhem on innocent people at home or abroad."