A SINN Fein senator has said he believes the party will be able to stop the transit of American troops through Shannon if it does take power.
At last week’s Sinn Féin Ard Fheis amotion was passed recognising “those protesting the use of Shannon airport by the US military, in highlighting attempts to erode our neutrality”.
While there have been protests against the US use of the airport for many years, the fact the Sinn Féin endorses them is potentially significant, with the party topping opinion polls consistently.
Speaking to the Clare Champion this week Limerick-based Senator Gavan said, “I want to see a thriving commercial airport at Shannon and I’ve been on record, along with others in Sinn Féin, for a number of years, in putting forward positive proposals in giving Shannon a far better, brighter future. We’re very focused on that.
“We’re equally clear that the US military shouldn’t be using Shannon Airport. We’re a neutral country and they should not be using it.”
Millions of US troops have passed through Shannon over the last 20 years, and it has provided important business at times when the airport was really struggling.
However Senator Gavan said that there are steps that can be taken to allow Shannon to flourish, without the US military traffic.
Could ending the US military use of the airport be a red line for Sinn Féin, in future negotiations on the formation of a coalition government?
“It’s not for me to say. I’m not going to second guess negotiations that may or may not take place.
“What I can tell you is that it’s our clear policy to end US military use of Shannon and perhaps more importantly to have a referendum on our neutrality, let the people of the country have a say.”
Senator Gavan said that Ireland hasn’t used its seat on the UN Security Council effectively, and that it needs to take a stronger anti-war position.
“Look at how the world is right now, we’ve had this horrific invasion of Ukraine, we’ve had ongoing US adventures across the Middle East, God knows how many people have died as a result of that.
“What we actually need Ireland to do is to play a positive role as a country that can encourage negotiations, encourage peace, encourage demilitarisation.
“Look at the world we live in, people are literally starving to death in the Horn of Africa right now, and yet most Western countries along with Russia and indeed China are focused on spending more on arms. Someone has to cry stop.”
He said the fact that Sinn Féin opposes the US military use of the airport does not mean that it is not a strong supporter of Shannon.
“I get a bit annoyed at times because there is an attempt to portray Sinn Féin as not being in support of Shannon Airport.
“We’re very much in support of Shannon Airport and we’ve made that point on several occasions and we’ve made really constructive suggestions.”
The party favours the creation of a new State Airport Authority, which would integrate Dublin, Cork and Shannon, and he feels this could stop the capital taking the bulk of Irish traffic.
“We can’t affect the balance of flights from Ireland unless we have a co-ordinated approach,” he claimed.
Senator Gavan said that he will attend Shannonwatch’s protest this Sunday, and has joined with the group to protest on a handful of occasions earlier in the year.
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.