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Oireachtas committee to hear petition on US military use of Shannon

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions will meet on Wednesday  (tomorrow) with senior diplomats to consider a petition calling for an investigation into the US military and CIA use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace.

Niall Burgess, secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, will address the committee on Ireland’s longstanding policy of military neutrality.

Dr Edward Horgan, Margaretta D’Arcy and Dr John Lannon, of the Shannonwatch organisation, addressed the committee on their petition in June, and a delegation from the committee visited Shannon in October to hear a range of perspectives on the issue.

Chairman of the committee, Padraig Mac Lochlainn, said, “This petition is a request to the Oireachtas Petitions Committee to examine the legislative and legal international peace and accountability implications that arise from the authorisation by successive Irish governments from 2001 to date, of the use of Shannon airport and Irish airspace for the transit of United States armed troops, munitions and other war materials, and of the refuelling of CIA associated aircraft involved in the so-called extraordinary rendition of prisoners.

“In October, a committee delegation travelled to County Clare for a valuable series of meetings with airport officials, gardaí and Shannonwatch representatives. Some of those we met pointed to the fact that Ireland’s traditional military neutrality is not a fundamental law or principle enshrined in our Constitution, but rather a foreign policy pursued by successive governments over the decades.”

Mr Mac Lochlainn said the meeting with Niall Burgess, the most senior diplomat in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, will afford the committee an insight into this complex and sometimes controversial policy area.

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