TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly addressed Ennis District Court at some length today, claiming that official failures had left them with no option but to enter restricted areas of Shannon airport without permission.[doptg id=”49″]
They said they had done so as the powers that be refused to address their complaints about the US military aircraft use of Shannon and put the onus on those seeking checks on military aircraft to provide evidence.
Today was the second day of the hearing and the matter has now been adjourned until April 15.
The first witness today was John Lannon of peace group Shannonwatch. Mr Lannon is a lecturer in UL, and holds expertise in human rights.
He said that while he didn’t know precisely how many times specific concerns about the US use of Shannon have been expressed to gardaí, it is “well over 100”. Mr Lannon added that the Garda response had been “to essentially do nothing”.
It was also claimed that at times gardaí have actually arrested people making complaints, while he said that in March 2011, in response to demands for evidence, members of Shannonwatch brought wheelbarrow loads of documents to Shannon Garda Station.
Margaretta D’Arcy, who was previously imprisoned after herself scaling a fence at Shannon, also gave evidence.She said that she developed strong anti war convictions after being forced to leave London on the eve of World War II, when she was just five years old.
She said that it is “the duty of all of us not to live in a desensitised country, where we are indifferent to what’s going on in front of our eyes.” Ms D’Arcy also praised the defendants for trying to show what is happening regarding the US use of Shannon.
Robert Gardiner, a former ramp agent at Shannon, said that he had been on military planes at Shannon as part of his job. A former Irish soldier also, he said he had often seen guns on board those aircraft. He also acknowledged that he had been arrested in relation to the theft of a gun from one of the aircraft and was held at Shannon Garda Station for two days. No charges were brought against him subsequently.
In her evidence, Ms Daly said that while the US military are required to keep weapons in the hold of the aircraft, Mr Gardiner’s evidence, and evidence given by other witnesses on the first day of the hearing, showed this is not what is happening.
She claimed that since being elected in 2011, herself and Mr Wallace have put down around 100 parliamentary questions to the relevant Ministers. “There answers haven’t been as clear as our questions would be,” she said of the replies received.
She said that they had in fact put the onus back on the deputies to provide evidence of inappropriate carriage of armaments.
Ms Daly said that herself and Mr Wallace had travelled to London to meet Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he is holed up. There, they discussed the Wikileaks cables as they relate to Ireland.
Regarding the entry to airside at Shannon, she said, “We felt we had no other choice to get information because the others we were asking to carry out searches didn’t do it.”She also claimed the defendants would have been “negligent as human beings and legislators” if they hadn’t pushed the issue.
In his evidence, Mr Wallace said that five months he spent travelling through South America in his late teens had made a big impression on him. He added that when he was in Bolivia 160 striking miners were killed in an atrocity involving US troops, but that there was relatively little known about it internationally. “When I came home I was pretty struck that the world hadn’t heard about it.”
Regarding the events at Shannon, he said. “We wanted the planes searched and we were told repeatedly to go and get evidence.”He said some of the State’s claims about the use of Shannon are so far fetched “you wouldn’t read in the Beano”.
He added that former Justice Minister had been “derogatory” towards him, and had told him to go and get evidence, something he said he had been trying to do.
Mr Wallace said their only chance of getting evidence was to get over the fence and look for it, while he said they wore high visibility jackets for safety.