THE US army’s continuing use of Shannon Airport should be encouraged, according to Clare County Council.
In the past, thousands of people have protested against the US transiting through the airport but, last Friday, members of the local authority passed a motion, proposed by Councillor Pat McMahon, that “In view of the substantial threats posed by Brexit and the uncertainty surrounding immigration and the pre-clearance facility at Shannon Airport, that this council reaffirms its support for American military transiting the airport”.
Introducing the motion, the veteran Newmarket councillor said, “Since I was seven or eight-years-old, military aircraft have been going through Shannon and I don’t think anything has changed”.
He described the US as “a friendly nation” and while he was in disagreement with those who have protested against the US military use of Shannon, he said he fully recognises their right to do so and that protests have been carried out in the right manner.
Councillor McMahon’s motion mentioned Brexit and he warned it will have far-reaching consequences.
“Brexit is going to have a major effect and we can’t put our head in the sand; scenarios will change.”
He claimed the United States has defended human rights in Afghanistan, while he questioned the even-handedness of some anti-US protests, claiming that there have been no protests at the Russian embassy regarding its position on Syria.
Independent councillor PJ Ryan, who also serves the Shannon Municipal District, was on the same page as Councillor McMahon.
He said the American use of the airport creates jobs and warned that if Shannon doesn’t capitalise, “Germany or Scotland or somewhere else will take it”.
Sinn Féin’s Mike McKee was strongly against the motion of support.
“I cannot square the circle regarding the position of this country being a neutral state and, at the same time, allowing US military aircraft transport troops on their way to a conflict zone. The definition of neutrality is the state of not supporting or helping either side in a conflict. This is clearly not the case here. We are proud of our status as a neutral country and, indeed, opinion polls consistently show that Ireland wants to keep its position as a neutral country.
“You can’t have it both ways though. We either have principles or we don’t. We either have a constitution or we don’t. One thing I do know is you can’t sell your principles for financial gain,” he continued.
Councillor Cathal Crowe said that regimes such as in Syria and the Taliban do need to be taken out but he said that rendition flights should never be tolerated.
Councillor Gerry Flynn also supported the motion. “We are not saying we support war or killing innocent people but we do support Shannon and the services it provides.”
The debate concluded with Councillor McMahon praising the United States’ role in combating extremism, before Councillor McKee shot back that it is American foreign policy that has created groups such as ISIS.
By Owen Ryan