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Gardaí at Shannon Airport urged by AG to turn blind eye to US army aircraft?

Owen Ryan

THE Attorney General urged gardaí at Shannon not to search US military aircraft, it was claimed in a petition to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions, which met last week.

The petition came from Doctor Edward Horgan and 19 associated parties. They called for an investigation into the use of the airport and Irish airspace by the US military and the CIA, focusing on Ireland’s involvement.

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan praised Doctor Horgan at the meeting, saying he believed the allegations. He also said that acting as a whistleblower isn’t easy.
Also at the meeting, Sinn Féin TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, said some action is required on the petition, which sought an investigation on the US use of Shannon and extraordinary rendition, focusing on the Irish Government’s involvement.

“We have received correspondence from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade but I do not think it addresses all the points raised by Dr Horgan,” he said.
Mr Ó Snodaigh continued, “He referred in particular to a High Court judgement in 2003, which found Ireland to be in breach of international laws on neutrality.

The State took no action on foot of that judgement.
“He also makes charges that gardaí at Shannon Airport were instructed, on the advice of the Attorney General, not to search these aircraft and that complaints made by activists at Shannon were not acted on. That is a serious charge.

“We should invite Dr Horgan and the other petitioners to appear before us to expand on their petition.
“And perhaps w eshould  ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to address the issues raised and clarify whether previous ministers for foreign affairs ever gave permission for extraordinary rendition flights, transfers of prisoners or commercial aircraft to be used in ways that are contrary to our neutrality laws and whether exemptions were granted for flights carrying arms, ammunition or explosives,” he added.

Senator Susan O’Keeffe proposed bringing the Tánaiste before the committee to discuss the concerns of those behind the petition.
“The Government has made its position clear in regard to this matter. It is completely opposed to these practices. We start from that position and, therefore, the claims made by the petitioners are very serious, not least in respect of the allegation that gardaí at Shannon Airport were advised by the Attorney General not to search or investigate aircraft,” she said.

“This is a serious matter and the petitioners have invested considerable effort in investigating it, but they are saying it is still not resolved. The Department sent us a detailed response but it does not answer all of the questions arising.

“I agree that we should invite Dr Horgan and perhaps some of the other petitioners to give evidence but I suggest that they be asked to clarify the claims made, to allow us to study them prior to their appearance before us. We might also invite the Tánaiste to come before the committee separately,” she added.
Roscommon TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan also said the petitioners should be brought before the committee, while he said that being a whistleblower is a thankless role in Ireland.

“At times, I feel as though being a whistleblower in this country is like the cartoons I used to watch as a child. In one cartoon, there was a dog whistle which nobody but the dog could hear. I wonder whether there is a certain pitch of whistle that is never heard in this country,” he said.

The flamboyant TD praised Ed Horgan and said he believed his allegations.
“Dr Horgan has been consistently meticulous on this issue. What he has to say is astonishing and it would be even more astonishing if he was incorrect because it would be the first time, in my experienc,e that he has been incorrect.

“It is essential that we bring the petitioners before us, because whether an attack results in a charred body in America or Afghanistan, the pain is the same.

“If we are facilitating the infliction of that pain, it needs to be exposed and we need to do something about it,” he concluded.

Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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