WITH the Taliban extending their sphere of control almost immediately after the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, there has been more criticism of the use of Shannon Airport by the US army.
Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan said that Ireland has been complicit in the situation. “The history of Afghanistan has been one of tragedy for many decades now.
“The US has left a legacy of chaos and carnage behind them, and successive Irish governments should reflect on how their betrayal of Irish neutrality facilitated this.
“According to data from Harvard University and the Brown University Costs of War project, 172,000 people have died directly as a result of the war waged by US forces. This figure does not include thousands more who died as an indirect result of the conflict due to displacement and disease, or the hundreds of thousands more people forced to flee as refugees.
“Many of those US forces made their way to that war via Shannon Airport. Some of the military hardware, and aircraft used for mid-air refuelling of bombing raids, made their way via Shannon.
“Our Minister for Foreign Affairs has some neck to describe US policy in Afghanistan as ‘a catastrophic policy failure’ given that he and all other government parties were happy to underwrite that policy failure for the past 20 years by facilitating US Military use of Shannon.”
He claimed the use of the airport violates neutrality.
“The US occupation of Afghanistan has been an unmitigated disaster for the Afghan people. Their insistence on propping up a deeply unpopular and corrupt government sealed their fate, and has led to the Taliban winning back power, a further calamity for that country, most especially for women and children.
“Irish people are proud of our status as a neutral country – this has consistently been reflected in opinion polls, which show strong public support for Ireland to retain its neutrality.
“But over the past two decades, governments of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Green Party, and indeed the Labour Party, have ignored the will of the Irish people, and have facilitated the United States invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
“The clear lesson to be learned from all of this, and something Sinn Féin has been saying for two decades, is that US Military should have no place in our civilian airport in Shannon.”
Meanwhile Orla Ní Éilí of the Clare Immigrant Support Centre has joined with representatives of a number of organisations including the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Amnesty International and Oxfam in calling on the State to help with the crisis in Afghanistan.
In a letter to the Taoiseach they called on Ireland to take in Afghan refugees. “We call on Ireland to commit to resettle a minimum of 1,000 Afghan refugees. This scheme should be flexible and include people in neighbouring countries. We call on Ireland to participate in any wider resettlement and relocation scheme that the EU proposes.”
It also requested that international protection be provided to Afghan applicants already here, through an expedited process.
Where people are already here but waiting for family reunification, the letter requested the process be speeded up.
“Some Afghan refugees in Ireland may have outstanding family reunification applications with family in Afghanistan. Waiting times for family reunification applications are currently approximately 12 months.
“We call on the Government to prioritise and expedite these applications as family members are likely to be in dangerous situations.”
by Owen Ryan