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US was willing to leave Shannon - and Ireland wanted them to stay

Documents obtained by RTÉ outline how the US had offered to stop using the Shannon stopover, but was asked not to.

Air Force One, carrying George W Bush, lands in Shannon in 2004. The United States would have been prepared to stop using the facility in 2003, but had been encouraged not to do so by Ireland, according to RTÉ's report.
Air Force One, carrying George W Bush, lands in Shannon in 2004. The United States would have been prepared to stop using the facility in 2003, but had been encouraged not to do so by Ireland, according to RTÉ's report.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE US MILITARY was willing to stop using Shannon Airport, but the Irish government wanted them to remain there, according to US documents obtained by RTÉ.

Documents obtained from the Pentagon through a Freedom of Information request outlined the thoughts of a senior official from US Transportation Command (US TRANSCOM), which oversees the transfer of officers between military bases.

“If the Irish had said, ‘Quit coming to Shannon,’ then we would have found somewhere else to go,” General John W Handy is cited as saying in the documents, read by Richard Dowling on RTÉ’s News at One.

But Ireland’s view, Handy had said, was that “it would send the wrong message” for the US to leave Shannon so quickly after protests at their presence.

The discussions about a withdrawal appear to have occurred in the aftermath of a protest by the ‘Pitstop Ploughshares’, who caused $2.7m of damage a plane there in February 2003, before the invasion of Iraq was launched.

It was not clear from the documents on whether a formal concrete offer was actually made to withdraw from the airport, or at what level any such discussions would have taken place.

Harry Browne, a journalism lecturer in DIT who has written a book on the Pitstop Ploughshares, said it appeared the documents obtained from RTÉ were not contemporaneous with the circumstances they described.

He added that Shannon was ultimately an Irish facility, and so it would have been up to Ireland to decide whether it allowed the US to continue using the airport as a base.

RTÉ’s documents also showed that over two million soldiers had passed through the airport since 2001.

Read more on the documents at RTÉ News >

Previously: Ahern suspected US carried prisoners through Shannon: WikiLeaks >

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Gavan Reilly

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