11 March 2011
Programme for Government should mean an end to U.S. Military use of Shannon Airport
Shannonwatch welcomes the commitment made in the new Programme for Government in Ireland that the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with international law will be enforced. If and when this is fully implemented it will ensure that Ireland is no longer supporting renditions, or facilitating the transit of armed troops and munitions through Shannon Airport to theatres of war. It will see a return to the country’s important status of being a neutral state.
The Programme for Government agreed by the Fine Gael and Labour parties contains the following statement under Foreign Affairs, ODA and Defence “We will enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law.” Labour leader and Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore TD confirmed at the Labour Party Special Congress on 5th March that this commitment includes the Hague Convention on Neutrality. This means that U.S. military use of Shannon airport is inconsistent with the programme for government and should be ended.
The issue of international law is of critical importance and was reinforced in the High Court judgement by Judge Kearns in Horgan v Ireland on 19 April 2003, when he ruled that U.S. military use of Shannon airport was in breach of international laws on neutrality.
There has been widespread speculation that U.S. President Obama may be invited to visit Ireland over the next year. If this comes to pass he would be welcomed by the vast majority of the Irish people provided that two key issues are resolved. The first is that U.S. troops should no longer be transiting through Shannon airport by the time of his visit. The second is that Guantanamo Bay detention centre should be closed and the military trails of so-called enemy combatants ended. On the 7th of March President Obama signed an executive order authorising indefinite detention for those held at Guantanamo and approved further military commission trials for detainees there.
Shannonwatch calls on the Irish government not to invite President Obama to Ireland until these issues are resolved.