This week Catherine Connolly TD submitted a parliamentary question to ask the Minister for Transport if an exemption under the Air Navigation (Munitions of War,Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Orders 1973 and 1989 was granted by his Department in respect of Omni Air aircraft number N828AX call sign CMB549. It landed at Shannon Airport at 11.27am on Thursday 28th January, remained there overnight and took off again at 09.28 am on Friday 29th. She also asked for the number of US military personnel on board this aircraft; if the aircraft was carrying weapons or munitions given that the aircraft remained overnight, if the aircraft crew and military passengers were accommodated in a local hotel; if all persons on board this aircraft were required to produce a negative Covid-19 test on arrival in Ireland.
There were quite a few US air force executive type jets flying through Shannon Airport at the start of this week, as well as Omni Air planes carrying US troops.
US air force B737 number 05-0730 arrived at Shannon on Tuesday from Andrews Air base in Maryland and took off for Cairo Egypt about 00,55am.
There were also two troop carrying planes on Tuesday, most likely carrying US troops to northern Norway from a US base in North Carolina. Omni Air N846AX arrived from Cherrypoint NC, landed at Shannon about 9.21am and then flew on to Nordufoss Air Base in Norway, and Omni Air N207AX also arrived at Shannon from Cherrypoint NC at 6.46am and then flew on to Trondheim in northern Norway.
As Ireland takes its seat on the US Security Council, our Minister for Foreign Affairs said Ireland would hope to “build alliances to get practical things done”. He wants to see Ireland playing a constructive, impactful role, to try to build consensus, relationships and trust, and ensure Ireland becomes a credible voice (see Irish Times report).
“This means saying no at times and standing up for ourselves and our own principles, even when it is a friend coming calling.” he said.
And at the same time he is giving permission to the "friend" who comes calling at Shannon every day of the week, looking to use the airport to refuel troop carriers and other military planes on their way to and from warzones that the same "friend" has created in the Middle East.
Between Jan 1st and Oct 31st this year, permits were granted for an 236 US military aircraft to land at Shannon Airport. Eleven of the flights were subsequently cancelled according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
In the same time period, permits were granted for 38 military or state aircraft from 10 other countries. Twelve of these were French aircraft, 10 were Belgian, and 6 were from the Netherlands.All are members of NATO, and their presence at Shannon further underlines the involvement of Ireland in military alliances.
Despite Covid-19 restrictions, US troops have continued to pass through Shannon since March. Up to the end of October a total of 65.965 troops passed through the airport; that's an average of 200 foreign soldiers a day using a civilian airport in "neutral" Ireland.
Earlier this month the Minister for Foreign Affairs provided Catherine Connolly TD with a breakdown of military flights that landed at Shannon or were granted permission to fly through Irish airspace for the years 2015 to 2019. Deputy Connolly requested the data for every year since 2002 but was told that because Department of Foreign Affairs staff are working from home and do not have access to physical files required to compile data for the years prior to 2015.
The following tables summariises the military landings at Shannon.
Military overflight numbers were even higher each year.
Earlier today we spent some time tracking a US troop carrying aircraft Omni Air N225AX. It originated at Dobbins Reserve Air Base near Atlanta in Georgia and landed at Shannon Airport just before midnight on Friday night. It refueled and took off again about 1.58am Saturday morning, heading for another refeuling stop at Sofia Bulgaria, before flying on over east Africa.
It was then recorded over Asosa in Ethiopia when in seemed to switch of its transponder which was wise because it was now flying over or near a viscous civil war in Tigre province Ethiopia.
"It’s not possible to promote peace if we are facilitating war."
This was the very clear message from Catherine Connolly TD in the Dail on Thursday when she questioned Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on the US military use of Shannon Airport. She laid out the figures clearly to him: 3 million US troops and their weapons have passed through Shannon on their way to and from warzones in the last 20 years; 79.5 million displaced people in the world today, 39 million of whom are as a result of America’s involvement in war over those 20 years.
At Dublin Circuit Court today a jury of twelve Irish citizens acquitted peace activists Colm Roddy and Dave Donnellan of the charge of alleged criminal damage at Shannon airport over four and a half years ago. The trial by Jury was presided over by Judge Karen O’Connor found both defendants not guilty. They entered Shannon airport on the morning of 25th May 2016 to search and investigate US military aircraft that were being refuelled on their way to and from US wars of aggression. There were two US Air Force aircraft at Shannon at the time of the incident.
The trial of peace activists Colm Roddy and Dave Donnellan began in Dublin at the Circuit Court in Parkgate street Dublin on Monday 12 October 2020, over four and half years since they carried out a peace action at Shannon airport. Here is a report from the first two days of the trial.