Minister for Foreign Affairs and Táiniste Eamon Gilmore this week demonstrated an extraordinary change of heart about Ireland’s role in renditions. His claim that there is no evidence Shannon Airport has ever been used for this purpose is a complete u-turn from the views he and the Labour Party expressed when in opposition. Up until he took ministerial office he demanded that the Irish government inspect suspect aircraft going through Shannon. Now he is denying the existence of evidence that the airport has been repeatedly involved in such human rights abuse.
"In answer to a Dail question on Tuesday, Eamon Gilmore mislead the Dáil and the Irish people when he said there is no evidence that Shannon or any other Irish airport has ever been used for this purpose” said John Lannon of Shannonwatch. "As he himself pointed out to the Dail on 12 December 2007, a number of reports, including one from the Human Rights Commission, have stated that Shannon Airport has been used for the transiting of people who are, as he said "being ferreted away for the purpose of torture". In March 2006 Eamon Gilmore also highlighted a Council of Europe statement that the European Convention on Human Rights can be violated through an omission to act to stop such serious violations of human rights . "Not knowing is not good enough" said Mr Gilmore at the time".
“The Labour party and its leader Eamon Gilmore have come a long way on this issue from the days when they were in opposition. It is extraordinary to hear Eamon Gilmore now denying Irish complicity in human rights abuse and resorting to the same type of excuses as the previous government. He is ignoring the fact that aircraft and crews engaged in rendition exercises transited through Shannon, and that we have an obligation as a state to investigate this. By failing to do so we are in breach of the Convention Against Torture and the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Torture) Act, 2000”.
“The Minister is also conveniently ignoring the fact that a manacled soldier was discovered on board a US civilian aircraft at Shannon Airport in June 2006. At the time, the incident proved highly embarrassing for the Fianna Fail lead government which always accepted assurances that no such traffic passed through its airports. And today it makes a mockery of Eamon Gilmore’s assertion that no prisoners have been taken through Shannon.” said John Lannon.
The fact that the US authorities lied to the British about rendition flights should also be quite worrying for Eamon Gilmore and the Irish government . In February 2008 the foreign secretary Ed Miliband had to admit that contrary to earlier explicit assurances that Diego Garcia had not been used for rendition flights, investigations had revealed that it had been used on two occasions.
It is difficult to understand therefore how Eamon Gilmore can say that the US authorities would have asked before taking a prisoner through Shannon.
Shannonwatch have documented the use of Shannon Airport by over 20 known or suspected rendition aircraft over an eight-year period. Amnesty International have documented the cases of 4 prisoners, Binyam Momamed, Abu Omar, Khaled al Maqtari, and Khaled el Mesri, in whose rendition Shannon played a significant role.
Furthermore a US embassy cable released by Wikileaks confirmed that a previous Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, was quite convinced that Shannon Airport had been used by aircraft involved in the extraordinary rendition of prisoners. And as recently as February 17th it was confirmed by the Chairperson of the Irish Human Rights Commission at an NGO forum on human rights in Dublin that peace activists were right about the misuse of Shannon Airport and that the Irish government was wrong.
President Michael D. Higgins has repeatedly called for inspections of suspected rendition aircraft at Shannon. Now his fellow party member Eamon Gilmore is denying any Irish involvement in renditions. “Coming from a man and a political party that claimed to support human rights and the law, this is sad and unacceptable.” said John Lannon.
On 18 March 2011 Shannnonwatch presented the Gardai with two wheelbarrow loads of evidence and information to back up these reports. This included detailed flight logs of known rendition planes using Shannon, and it contained the evidence which is now being sought by Eamon Gilmore. Almost a year later Shannonwatch is still waiting for a response from the Gardai. Like the present government, they too seem intent on avoiding accountability and have taken no action to end Irish involvement in human rights abuse.