Minister Makes Excuses for Failure to Search US Aircraft at Shannon

Press Release Shannonwatch, 7 Nov 2013

Minister Makes More Excuses for the Failure to Search US Aircraft at Shannon

The Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter has claimed that the Garda Síochána has no role in relation to the inspection of foreign State or military aircraft at Shannon or other airports because they enjoy sovereign immunity. In effect this means that the government allows the US military to take whatever or whoever they want through Ireland, regardless of the human rights, security and other consequences.

The statement was made in response to Clare Daly TD who asked the Minister whether or not the Government or the Garda Commissioner has instructed Gardaí at Shannon not to search US military aircraft, or chartered aircraft transporting US troops, or aircraft associated with the CIA.

According to Minister Shatter the Garda Síochána has statutory powers of search and entry available to it under various legislative provisions, and these apply to aircraft as much as to any other type of private property.  

He was talking here about civilian as opposed to military aircraft.

"The Minister says that these powers may only be exercised in circumstances where a member of the Garda Síochána reasonably suspects that an offence has been or is being committed" said John Lannon of Shannonwatch. "But there have been plenty of incidents in which there were reasonable ground to suspect involvement in torture-related offences and these have not been investigated"

The Minister also said that the Garda Síochána has fully investigated a number of allegations of unlawful activity at Irish airports and files have been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecution in some of these cases. This is a claim that was also made by the government in their report to the fourth periodic review under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

"At that time they noted that 17 complaints were received by an Garda Siochana regarding alleged rendition flights to/from Shannon Airport" said John Lannon. "However they could only confirm that 7 of these were investigated"

Shannonwatch calls on the Department of Justice to make the outcomes of the investigations of all the complaints known, or if no investigations took place to explain why.

Shannonwatch have also brought a number of additional complaints that have never been investigated to the attention of the Department of Justice and the Minister. On 29 November 2007 for example a request was made to inspect an aircraft that is listed in a European Parliament report as allegedly being involved in the CIA's renditions programme. Instead of searching the aircraft the Gardaí asked the complainants to leave the airport.

On 30 Oct 2007 a request was made to inspect suspect CIA rendition aircraft registration N475LC at Shannon Airport. Once again the Gardai refused to do so.

"Quite worryingly, on that occasion a member of an Garda Siochana stated that they had an instruction not to search such planes" said John Lannon.

In response to this and other documented references to "instructions" and "advice" to Gardai, Clare Daly also asked the Minister if he or the Garda Commissioner were acting on advice from the Attorney General in relation to the searching of US planes at Shannon. In response, the Minister would only say that "operational matters pertaining to policing are a matter for the Garda Commissioner and accordingly the question of the Government issuing instructions of the kind referred to by the Deputy does not arise".

According to retired Irish army commandant and Shannonwatch member Edward Horgan, this answer does not deny that such advice or instruction exists. "Shannonwatch have already asked the current Attorney General for clarity on this matter" said Dr Horgan. "However it seems our search for clarification on whether or not there is advice from the Attorney General to the Gardaí must go on".

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For more information or interviews, contact Shannonwatch on 087 8225087 or email shannonwatch@gmail.com.