US MILITARY PERSONNEL BREAK COVID 19 RESTRICTIONS AT SHANNON ON THREE OCCASIONS - ED HORGAN'S DETAILED REPORT

Over the past few weeks at least three aircraft associated with the US military have spent an overnight at Shannon airport and there crews and military passengers have been accommodated in local hotels in Clare and Limerick and in several cases they either ignored Irish Government covid-19 regulations that are strictly applied to Irish citizens, or were inappropriately exempted from these regulations by authorities at Shannon airport.

Since October 2001, up to 10,000 US military aircraft and aircraft on contract to the US military have been refuelled at Shannon Airport the vast majority of which were associated with the US led wars in the Middle East, in which millions of people have unjustifiably lost their lives. Almost two decades later this unacceptable situation is ongoing and additional factors have come to light which could have serious consequences for the health and lives of people in counties Clare and Limerick. Over the past few weeks at least three such aircraft have spent an overnight at Shannon Airport.

On 25th January 2021 a US Navy C40A aircraft registration number 16-5829 arrived at Shannon airport at 19.06pm coming from Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, stayed overnight at Shannon airport and took off for the USA at 11.35am on 26th January. Its crew of five US Navy personnel and 48 US military passengers were allowed enter through Shannon Airport and travel to be accommodated in a hotel in Limerick City, even though they were in breach of Irish Government Covid-19 public health regulations.

On 28th January 2021 an Omni Air International civilian aircraft registration number N828AX on contract to the US military landed at Shannon airport and after refuelling flew on to Rota air base in southern Spain, but due to fog at that air base it was unable to land and returned to Shannon landing at 11.27am on Thursday 28 January 2021. This was not an emergency landing as there were no problems with the aircraft and it could have landed at any airport in Western Europe. The aircraft remained at Shannon overnight and took off again at 09.28am on Friday 29 January 2021. Two hundred and twenty-six US soldiers were travelling on this aircraft in addition to the aircraft crew members. The crew and the 226 US soldiers on board this aircraft were allowed enter through Shannon airport and travelled to be accommodated overnight in a number of local hotels even though they were in breach of Irish Government Covid-19 public health regulations.

A US air force, Special Operations Command Dornier C-140A aircraft registration number 97-3093 arrived at Shannon airport at about 13.42pm on 8th February 2021 coming from the USA. It spent over 17 hours at Shannon airport before taking off at 07.29am on 9th February 2021 and made further stops in both Cairo Egypt and Khartoum Sudan. The crew members and passengers on this aircraft, were also allowed enter through Shannon airport and accommodated overnight in a local hotel.

Following the incident involving US Navy aircraft 16-5829 on 25 January 2021, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney stated that:
“The US authorities have assured me that this is understood and will not happen again.” Since it already has happened again in the case of the Omni air aircraft and its 226 pasengers it seems clear that assurances given by the US Government to the Irish Government are worthless and therefore the Irish Government should immediately withdraw its permission for US military aircraft to land and refuel at Shannon airport. Such permission should never have been given in the first instance by any Irish Government that is still publicly stating that it is pursuing a policy of neutrality.