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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Wikileaks
The first Irish WikiLeak: the full contents
The full transcript of the leaked memo written by ambassador James C Kenny on the US attitude to flights at Shannon.

The following is the full content of the WikiLeaks document written by James C Kenny, then US ambassador to Ireland, on the United States’ attitude about the use of Shannon airport.’s article on the matter can be read here.

DE RUEHDL #1020/01 2481445
R 051445Z SEP 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DUBLIN 001020
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2015
¶B. DUBLIN 709
Classified By: Ambassador James C. Kenny; Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).
¶1. (C) This is an action request. Please see para 10.
¶2. (C) Summary: Although supportive of continued U.S.
military transits at Shannon Airport, the Irish Government
has informally begun to place constraints on U.S. operations
at the facility, mainly in response to public sensitivities
over U.S. actions in the Middle East. Shannon remains a key
transit point for U.S. troops and materiel bound for theaters
in the global war on terror, while yielding diplomatic
benefits for the Irish Government and significant revenues
for the airport and regional economy. Segments of the Irish
public, however, see the airport as a symbol of Irish
complicity in perceived U.S. wrongdoing in the Gulf/Middle
East and in regard to extraordinary renditions, a view that
underpinned a recent jury decision to acquit the “Shannon
Five” protesters who damaged a U.S. naval aircraft. The
Irish Government has repeatedly defended U.S. interests in
the face of public criticism, but has recently introduced
more cumbersome notification requirements for
equipment-related transits in the wake of the Lebanon
conflict. These requirements, which entail a more expansive
interpretation of munitions of war, are designed to give the
Irish Government mor latitude to decide on allowable
transits, accoring to a senior Department of Foreign Affairs
oficial. We suspect that the Government aims with tese new
constraints to dampen public criticism ahead of the 2007
general elections, and we would apreciate Department
gudance on a USG response, including on any next steps
Page 1
regarding the Shannon Five. End summary.
Shannon: Significant Benefits and Sensitivities
——————————————— –
¶3. (SBU) U.S. military access to Shannon Airport in western
Ireland is among the most tangible benefits of traditionally
strong U.S.-Irish relations. For the United States,
geography makes Shannon a key transit point for military
flights and military contract flights carrying personnel and
materiel to Iraq and the Middle East/Gulf theater in the
global war on terror, as well as to Europe and Africa. In
2005, roughly 340,000 U.S. troops passed through Shannon on
nearly 2,500 contract carrier flights; about 450
equipment-related/distinguished-visitor transit milair
flights and thousands of airspace overflights also took
place. Approximately 220,000 troops have transited to date
this year. For Ireland, U.S. military transits not only
demonstrate bilateral cooperation in support of U.S.
objectives in the Gulf/Middle East, but also generate
significant revenue for Shannon Airport and the regional
economy. In 2005, the airport turned a euro 2.9 million
profit after earning roughly euro 10.3 million from services
for transit flights, including landing, parking, catering,
and fuel. The economic gains for the Shannon area are less
easily calculated, but would include, at a minimum, payments
for hotels, food/beverages, transportation, and cultural
activities that come with 8-10 overnight stops per year for
roughly 200 soldiers each time. (Revenues may fall in 2006,
as World Airways, a DOD-contract carrier, has begun to
transfer operations from Shannon to its Leipzig hub for
internal logistical reasons.)
¶4. (SBU) For segments of the Irish public, however, the
visibility of U.S. troops at Shannon has made the airport a
symbol of Irish complicity in perceived U.S. wrongdoing in
the Gulf/Middle East. This popular sentiment was manifest in
the July 25 jury decision to acquit the “Shannon Five,” a
group of anti-war protesters who damaged a U.S. naval
aircraft at the airport in 2003 in the belief that they would
prevent loss of life in Iraq (ref A). Members of the Shannon
Five have subsequently called for a mass demonstration in
Dublin on September 23 (capitalizing on publicity for the
September 21-24 Ryder Cup tournament and the return of
university students) as part of a campaign to “demilitarize”
the airport. Although it is by no means clear that any
protest will reach “mass” proportions, participation in the
planned protest will likely draw from a vocal anti-war lobby
that has demonstrated against U.S. use of Shannon from the
start of the Iraq War up through the recent Lebanon conflict.
DUBLIN 00001020 002 OF 003
In late 2005/early 2006, EU-wide debate on extraordinary
renditions similarly galvanized this lobby, and the Irish
public generally, to question U.S. military access to the
The Irish Government and Shannon
¶5. (C) The Irish Government consistently has acted to ensure
Page 2
continued U.S. military transits at Shannon in the face of
public criticism. Since the Shannon Five decision, for
example, Irish authorities have upgraded airport security,
doubling the number of police and military personnel
patrolling the facility and introducing rigorous checks at
the parking lot and perimeter fence. (The upgrade is also
partly a response to possible Islamic extremist threats.)
Moreover, despite a general Government reluctance to
challenge independent court decisions, Defense Minister
Willie O’Dea and governing Fianna Fail party politicians have
publicly questioned the legal merits of the Shannon Five jury
decision. These public statements track with representations
to the Irish Parliament by Government ministers over recent
years and months in defense of U.S. practices at Shannon,
including by Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, who cited U.S.
assurances on renditions this past year to rebuff calls for
random aircraft checks. In parliamentary debate this spring,
Minister of State for Europe, Noel Treacy, dismissed renewed
calls for random inspections following the transit of a U.S.
military prisoner that occurred without prior notification to
the Irish Government (ref B).
¶6. (C) Notwithstanding its general support for U.S.
interests, the Irish Government has more recently begun to
place limits on certain forms of U.S. transits at Shannon.
On August 15, the Irish Department of Transport informally
advised Post by e-mail that all military equipment, including
HMMWVs and trucks, were to be considered “munitions of war,”
requiring prior notification to the Transport Department and
exemption waivers for transshipment. In addition to
diplomatic clearance requests for state aircraft, we have
heretofore provided notification for troop transits (with
accompanying weapons), hazmat, and actual weapons/munitions,
but not non-lethal military articles. The Transport
Department notice followed upon the Department of Foreign
Affairs (DFA) oral but definitive decision during the Lebanon
conflict to forbid U.S. military transits carrying munitions
to Israel, a policy that DFA did not convey to Post before
informing the media. Indications of this trend to constrain
U.S. operations at Shannon first arose in the context of the
extraordinary renditions issue. In late 2005, for instance,
the DFA informally denied a DHS deportation transit through
Shannon of convicted foreign nationals from the United States
out of apparent concern that the public would misread the
transit as a rendition.
¶7. (C) In an August 30 meeting with the DCM and emboff, DFA
Political Director Rory Montgomery said that the Department
of Transport’s more encompassing approach to munitions of war
and notification requirements reflected the Irish
Government’s interest in knowing the full scope of military
materiel transiting Ireland. He recalled that the February
shipment through Shannon of U.S. Apache helicopters to/from
Israel, which the U.S. contract carrier had not listed as
munitions of war, elicited parliamentary criticism and
highlighted the need for clarity about the nature of materiel
in transit (ref C). More expansive notification requirements
that would apply to all countries would “make it easier” for
the Irish Government to decide on allowable shipments, while
remaining predisposed to respond quickly and positively to
U.S. transit requests, said Montgomery. He added that the
DFA would recommend that the Department of Transport consult
with Post in the process of clarifying and publishing
Page 3
guidance on munitions of war. The DCM noted Post’s intention
to confer with the Transport Department, and he emphasized
that broader notification requirements would make it more
cumbersome to process materiel shipments, with the
possibility that U.S. military planners would consider
alternatives to Shannon as a transit hub.
Comment and Action Request
¶8. (C) Comment: Irish sensitivities generally about foreign
military usage of the airport often make any inadvertent
DUBLIN 00001020 003 OF 003
breaches of Ireland’s restrictive rules on foreign military
transits more visible and problematic. A neutral country,
Ireland has no military attache system, no SOFA for U.S.
activities, and strict rules regarding weapons transits and
the wearing of foreign military uniforms. Occasional and
inadvertent breaches of weapons and uniform policies, like
“failure” to notify transiting prisoners (ref B) and military
equipment, are met with public and press scrutiny, but also
with Government understanding. Any incident, however, that
becomes the cause for a public debate about the U.S. use of
Shannon will likely add pressure on the Government. Embassy
has sought to manage the policy issues, notification
requirements, and the coordination of transiting flights,
overflights, refuelings, crew rest overnights, and equipment
failure overnights with existing DAO and civilian Embassy
resources on the ground. With the help of extra TDY support
to the DAO office and a TDY EUCOM presence at Shannon airport
(which is three-and-a-half hours from Dublin), we have
managed the occasional problems adequately and well.
¶9. (C) More comment: We intend to engage other ranking DFA,
Transport, and Irish Defense Department officials, upon their
return from the August holiday period, on the reasons for new
constraints at Shannon, particularly the novel interpretation
of munitions of war and its application to other countries
(Russian transits to Venezuela, for instance). The Irish
public’s overwhelming opposition to Israeli military actions
in Lebanon has exacerbated the governing Fianna Fail party’s
sensitivity to public criticism ahead of Ireland’s May 2007
general elections. The major opposition party, Fine Gael,
supports continued U.S. military use of Shannon, but the
Labour Party and the Green Party, Fine Gael’s opposition
partners, favor a review, if not reversal, of Irish policy on
U.S. transits. Against this political backdrop, U.S.
missteps at Shannon could easily become campaign grist, a
Fianna Fail concern that mid-level DFA officials have cited
in informal discussions with Post. Compliance with the new
rules (entailing notification for almost any U.S. military
equipment transiting), if feasible from the U.S. logistical
perspective, will require a higher order of coordination
among TRANSCOM, Air Mobility Command, TACC, and the contract
¶10. (C) Action request: We would appreciate input from the
Department and other USG agencies for our planned follow-on
discussions with Irish officials on Shannon. Embassy will
diplomatically pursue the most workable arrangements possible
Page 4
with Irish officials, but we would appreciate Washington’s
judgment as to whether the process of notification of almost
everything of a military nature (including by contract
carriers) through Shannon is becoming too difficult to make
the airport a preferred transit stop. Guidance is also
requested regarding the Shannon Five decision, an outcome
that DFA Political Director Montgomery described as “bizarre”
and presumably not precedential. Our understanding is that
the case, as a criminal matter, has run its course, as there
is no possibility to appeal a jury decision under Irish law.
There may be an option to pursue the case as a civil matter,
and Post would need authorization and funding to contact
local attorneys about this possibility. Another option would
be to present an itemized bill for aircraft damages to the
Irish Government, either to seek compensation outright or, at
least, to convey USG dissatisfaction with the Shannon Five
Page 5

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