A PANEL OF TDs and senators have pledged to consider a petition asking for the Government to set up an investigation into US Military and CIA use of Irish airspace and Shannon Airport in particular.
Peace activists from the Shannonwatch organisation — including Margaretta D’Arcy, who served three months in prison earlier this year for refusing not to engage in future protests at Shannon — made a presentation to the Oireachtas Joint sub-Committee on Public Petitions.
The European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the United Nations have all expressed concern over the years about Ireland’s alleged cooperation in CIA rendition programme. A report published last year found that 54 countries, including Ireland, helped facilitate the CIA’s secret detention, rendition and interrogation programme in the years after the 2001 9/11 attacks.
Iraq and Afghanistan
Opening the Shannonwatch presentation today, Dr Edward Horgan, a former UN Peacekeeper, said the practice of allowing planes carrying troops transit through the airport meant the country had effectively been facilitating the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And he said:
Thousands of Afghan and Iraqi children are just as important as the 796 children buried at Tuam.
Launching into an impassioned, apparently off-the-cuff speech, D’Arcy said that what was happening at Shannon amounted to a “Monty Python” scenario.
The 79-year-old Aosdána member appeared to become visibly angry over the situation as she gestured at the committee members and said:
Shannon is at the centre of an aggressive illegal war that destroys people.
Referring to a fun run being organised for Shannon runway in August, she described the airport as “an absolutely crime laden place of murder and assassination” and said it would be akin to “having a fun run in Auschwitz”.
All images: screengrabs via Oireachtas.ie… Margaretta D’Arcy, her colleagues from Shannonwatch and reaction from Michael Healy Rae TD and Senator Susan O’Keeffe.
Referring to the perception of Ireland in the Middle East and elsewhere, she said that while we had previously been considered a “nice neutral country”…
“We are now a blood-ridden country… We now can be accused of being war criminals.”
And she concluded:
I would prefer to blow myself up on the runway with petrol rather than have to go down in history as being a war criminal.
Ending the group’s presentation, Shannonwatch’s John Lannon said it beggared belief that successive Governments appeared to rely on “diplomatic assurances that prisoners were not or would not be taken through Shannon”.
Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore said in 2011 that he had been assured by the US Government Shannon was not used for rendition. Last year, he said an incident when a military aircraft carrying a fixed weapon landed at the facility had been raised “at the highest possible level” with the US Embassy.
“We know from experience that the US administration have lied about what they’ve been doing around the world,” Lannon told the TDs.
He also raised concerns about how authorities had dealt with complaints about suspected rendition flights at Shannon, saying that while gardaí legally had the power to search planes, the force appeared to have a policy of not doing so.
“The number of complaints that we’ve made that have been unanswered is estimated to be over a hundred,” Lannon said.
On a number of occasions the gardaí have said that they refer to either an instruction or a policy decision or a letter of advice to the effect that US military and CIA planes at Shannon were not to be searched.
He said any possible investigation should examine how gardaí reached the understanding that they weren’t to conduct searches of US Military planes.
We need to learn what has happened in Shannon in the last ten years and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The three Shannonwatch activists answered a number of questions from the committee members on their presentation and issues arising from it before the meeting came to an end.
Chairman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, of Sinn Féin, said the contents of their report would be examined by members and discussed at next week’s meeting, and that the panel would be back in touch.