Thanks to PANA for inviting me to speak at their 2009 AGM on behalf of Shannonwatch. Shannon Airport is the embodiment of the erosion of Irish neutrality and of Irish involvement in the business of global warfare. Sadly a large share of its business now is US military stopovers, although Ireland claims to be a neutral country. A state that has had a proud tradition of peacekeeping with the UN is now trying to profit from immoral and unnecessary wars. But offsetting the loss of commercial traffic – due to the ending of the Shannon stopover, the downturn in the global aviation industry, and other factors – with war traffic is not something we can or will ever accept.
Since the start of this decade – soon after the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers & Pentagon - the Irish government has made Shannon available to the US government. Its not the first time this happened – the US were also allowed to use Shannon during the 1991 Gulf War (bombers were seen at Shannon, en route to Iraq). But when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the Irish government stepped up its support for the imperialist warmongering and allowed them to use Shannon as a refueling stopover. As a result the majority of soldiers being transported between the US and Iraq for most of this decade have passed through Ireland.
We know also that Shannon has been used by the CIA as part of its so-called extraordinary renditions policy (a sanitised name for kidnapping and torture). This has been well documented by Amnesty International, the European Parliament and others. It breaches international human rights norms as well as Irish law – in particular the Criminal Justice Act – UN Convention Against Torture) 2000.
For those of you who don’t know us, Shannonwatch is a group of peace and human rights activists based in the mid-west of Ireland. In the proud tradition of Irish anti-war protest, we continue to hold weekly protest vigils on the second Sunday of every month. We also do continuous monitoring of all military flights in and out of Shannon and through Irish airspace. Summaries are available on our website www.shannonwatch.org.
We work with media people who are still interested in investigating the cover-ups around Shannon, and with supportive politicians, to get to the truth of what is really going on in our “civilian” airport. Ultimately we want accountability from our government for the millions of lives we have helped destroy; for becoming part of an imperialist military power block driven by greed for energy resources; for the manner in which they took control of Irish foreign policy away from the people. And for the years of human rights abuse we have condoned & supported, and for the fact that we have covertly violated international and Irish law for most of this decade. We want it to end, and to ensure that it never happens again.
We often speculate about the real role Shannon has played in the wars of George Bush, in the renditions networks, and is now playing in Obama’s Afghanistan war. And about what deals have been done with the Americans in years past to give them open access to our runways. But we don’t even need to speculate – the known facts speak for themselves. Here are some of these facts:
We were pleased to have had two conferences organised by PANA and the IAWM at Shannon in 2009. These recognised the importance of the airport issue in the debates around neutrality, Lisbon and so on, and reminded people that we too are guilty for the loss of many, many lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shannonwatch looks forward to continuing to work with PANA, the Irish Anti War Movement and others in 2010, to keep drawing attention to Irish complicity in war and human rights abuse at Shannon. We will continue the monitoring and publishing of flight data, and the monthly vigils (2nd Sunday of the month from 2pm – 3pm) will remain in place until the soldiers and the torturers are gone, or there is no-one left to protest. Together we will ensure that it is the former – and not the latter – that brings the protests to an end!