SHANNONWATCH has organised a peace protest for this Sunday at 2pm against the ongoing US military use of the airport.
The event takes place two days after Armistice Day which is intended to mark the end of fighting in World War I and to honour those killed in it.
Shannonwatch says Sunday’s protest will draw attention to how little peace there is in the world today and how Ireland’s increasing support for militarization is escalating global instability.
Armed US troops pass through Shannon on a daily basis, despite the fact that the country claims to be neutral.
“What is happening at Shannon Airport is in breach of international laws on neutrality and makes the Irish people complicity in US war crimes and torture,” said Edward Horgan of Shannonwatch.
The group has been protesting at the airport on the second Sunday of every month since 2008, while they say that the human and financial costs of the military movements through Sahnnon are increasing.
Mr Horgan claimed that Ireland actually loses out in financial terms by allowing the military use.
“Many people are under the false impression that Ireland is gaining financially from US military use of Shannon Airport” said Edward Horgan.
“The opposite is the case. The small profit made from refuelling warplanes and providing refreshments for US soldiers is dwarfed by the additional costs incurred over the past 20 years by Irish taxpayers.
“These costs could include up to €60 million in air traffic control fees paid by Ireland for US military aircraft landing at Irish airports or overflying through Irish airspace, as well as up to €30 million in additional security costs incurred by An Garda Siochana, the Irish Defence Forces and Shannon Airport authorities.”
“Added to that there are the costs associated with the unjustified prosecutions of dozens of peace activists, many of whom were acquitted by the courts.
“Security and other costs for the visit by US President George W Bush in 2004 may have cost up to €20 million, so the total direct and indirect costs incurred by the Irish State due to US military use of Shannon Airport may have exceeded €100 million.”
He said that the financial side pales into insignificance when set against the human tragedies of war.
“Up to 5 million people have died due to war related reasons across the wider Middle East since the first Gulf war in 1991. This included over one million children whose lives were destroyed, and in whose deaths, we have been actively complicit.
“All these wars in the Middle East were waged by the US and their NATO and other allies in breach of the UN Charter, the Hague and Geneva conventions and other international and national laws.
“Now Russia has joined the international law breakers by waging a dreadful war in Ukraine. This has had devastating impact on the people of Ukraine. It has also become a proxy war for
resources between Russia and the US-dominated NATO. And in this context, the ongoing US military use of Shannon Airport could make Ireland a target for Russian military retaliation.”
Noting the significance of the date of the protest at Shannon airport, Shannonwatch said that Armistice Day purports to celebrate the heroes who died in World War 1, saying they died so that the world could live in peace, but that there has been little peace since.
“Up to 50,000 Irish men died in World War 1 which instead of creating peace was itself a cause of World War 2, the Holocaust, and US use of atomic bombs against Japan. “International peace is as far from reality today as it was in 1914 and 1939,” Shannonwatch claimed.
Clare TD Cathal Crowe has claimed, however, that the continued US military use of Shannon is compatible with Ireland’s neutrality.
“The genesis of this (the American use of Shannon) is a UN Resolution dating back to 2001,” said the Fianna Fail deputy.
“It came in the aftermath of the Twin Towers attack and it’s what led to the US going to Iraq and Afghanistan. At the time Ireland acted in accordance with the United Nations and this year we hold a seat at the UN Security Council.”
However, he said it is important that Ireland does keep monitoring what and who is on the US military flights that refuel there.
“What I feel is important is that Ireland would have continued oversight as to who is on these planes and what the planes carry.
“I would have had concerns in the past about rendition flights of prisoners, but if it’s carrying personnel I would condone that as it’s in accordance with the UN resolution of 2001. With stringent State oversight I think it can continue.”
He criticised some of the anti-war protests at Shannon, saying they had been an unwelcome distraction for the Gardai.
“They were damaging to the Shannon brand and they drew a huge amount of Garda resources away from other towns and villages in the county.
“There were times when three dozen guards would have been monitoring the perimeter fence of Shannon, when we could have done with them policing local towns and villages.”
Deputy Crowe queried whether Sinn Féin’s opposition to the use of Shannon would be shared by the party locally, but Councillor Donna McGettigan, the only Sinn Féin elected representative in Clare, said that Clare Sinn Féin shares the wider view.
“I haven’t been up (at the Shannon protests) in over a year myself, but I have attended them previously. We feel it is going against our neutrality for our airport to be used in that manner.”
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.