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Minister under fire over military use of airport

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Minister Paschal Donohue has come under fire from a local lobby group over the use of Shannon Airport by US military troops in the wake of the Nice attack.

Shannonwatch, which is campaigning for an end to the military use of Shannon Airport, has taken issue with  Minister Donohue over his defence of the use of the airport by US troops.

Minister Donohoe said a careful response is needed to terrorism attacks like  in Nice where 84 people were killed.

However, Shannonwatch claimed that “ferrying armed troops to the Middle East through Shannon Airport to continue the cycles of war and violence isn’t a calm or measured response”.

Minister Donohoe said the Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, had met with the Garda Commissioner on Friday last and added that gardaí are prepared to tackle and prevent such attacks here.

“It’s so important now that the response back from all of us isn’t a cycle that can harden the worst impulses and lock us into a cycle where this happens again and again,” he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme.
“The kind of terror that we are now facing is the everyday, the truck, the car, something that is part of our everyday life,” he added.

TD Clare Daly in Shannon shortly after her release. Photograph by John Kelly.
TD Clare Daly 

However, AAA-PBP TD Clare Daly said the continued use of Shannon Airport by US troops means Ireland is also a target.

“I do think our culpability by allowing US military on an almost twice daily basis to transit military hardware and its soldiers across to the Middle East to wreck destruction in those areas, does make us complicit in those actions and does make us complicit in the destabilisation of the Middle East. In that sense we would be a target as well,” she claimed.

But Mr Donohoe countered, “We have always been very clear and successful governments have been very clear on the importance of our neutrality and that Shannon Airport and its use is not in any way incompatible with that.”

John Lannon of Shannonwatch claimed there is a “possibility” that the airport is at an increased risk of an attack, stating the military use of Shannon is the type of response that created Isis and the evil brutality it is engaged in.

“I can’t see how the minister can say on the one hand that we need to take a calm response and, at the same time, continue unquestionably and uncritically to allow the US military to use Shannon on their way over and back to the Middle East.

“We know in the past that ISIS have looked to identify what they perceive is the enemy and you would have to say that we are not neutral and we are at war because we are facilitating the passage of US troops through Shannon.

“We have tens of thousands of armed troops going through Shannon Airport on an annual basis and 2.5 million since the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan 15 years ago. That is more than half of the population of Ireland. How can we call ourselves neutral? These troops have been directly involved in the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.
“They have been involved in operations which were not sanctioned by the United Nations. We are certainly in breach of our neutrality,” he said.

The group has alleged that the US military’s use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace costs the state in excess of €4 million a year, as a result of the garda policing arrangements at the airport, the use of the Defence Forces to provide additional security and air traffic subsidies to the US military.

Asked why no international independent body had found that the current military use of Shannon is in breach of Irish neutrality, Mr Lannon said while the group hadn’t much success with numerous complaints to these bodies, the fourth Periodic Report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had made recommendations in relation to inspections for suspected “rendition planes”, which he claimed the government ignored.

Dan Danaher

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