It was a cold, wet Sunday afternoon at Shannon Airport. Two US Navy aircraft sat on the tarmac; one was a Hercules KC-130T Hercules, registration 164993, the other a C-40 Clipper, registration 168980 (both regular visitors to Shannon). Outside the airport, the regular monthly peace vigil took place as Gardai, with their backs to the US Navy planes, blocked the attendees from entering the airport.
A press conference hosted by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) was held on 7th December to highlight government plans to rush a motion through the Dail to agree the new PESCO agreement. Peace and human rights campaigners fear a more militarised EU linked to NATO, and as opponents of the Lisbon Treaty 2009 suggested then and now, it will lead to a European Army.
The Fine Gael / Independents government is to propose to the Dail this coming week that Ireland join the EU's Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence (PESCO). This will mean a new EU Defence budget starting at over €1.5 billion a year (up from €590 million). Each participating EU state, including Ireland, will be required to reach an average of 2% of its GDP to ensure that the EU becomes a global military power.
The Irish Government has given the go-ahead for Ireland to take part in an EU security and defence pact called Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO). This is one of the most important decisions this Fine Gael / Independeny Alliance government will make. As such there should have been serious debate on the issue, with all points of view presented, in the mainstream corporate media. This has not been the case; the media has largely ignored this further erosion of Irish neutrality, just as it continues to ignore the use of Shannon Airport by US troops.
On 31st October activists Dan Dowling and Colm Roddy both appeared, yet again, at Ennis Court in relation to their peace actions. The cases were 'for mention' only, so nothing of note took place. Afterwards Dan sat with long-time activist Colm and discussed his activism, war and more. Here's a transcript of the conversation.
Colm Roddy outside Ennis Court. [Photo: Ciaron O'Reilly]
D: I saw a clip last night Colm, Ronald Regan's visit to Ireland, he arrived in a school and the children were dressed up in báníns for him. Ireland gave away her gas and fish for nothing, her children to emigration, our neutrality, recently our data. Is there any other country though that kowtows this much- to the yanks in particular?
C: Ireland's like the 51st state, after 9-11 we were the only country that held a national day of mourning. I was in town and every shop and institute was closed down. It was a more excessive reaction than the USA I think. And the rendition flights, our government accepted the word of the lying USA with no effort made to ensure there were no prisoners on board.
Recent discussions about the safety or otherwise of having the US military flying in and out of Shannon Airport gave us reason to recall an incident in March 2008 in which a Murray Air aircraft was involved in an emergency landing at Shannon. This was after it was seen flying over Askeaton, which is across the River Shannon estuary from the airport, with flames coming from one of its engines. Residents of the County Limerick town described their windows rattling and houses shaking as the cargo plane flew low over a housing estate in the town.
The October peace vigil at Shannon on Sunday 9th was a peaceful, dignified affair as always. Almost 20 people gathered to express their opposition to the ongoing US military use of the airport. Some were local, while others travelled from Cork, Galway and elsewhere to join the protest.
A group of the peace vigil attendees at Shannon