Messrs Kenny and Obama - Stop Making Deals over Shannon without the Irish People's Consent
Shannonwatch statement, 25 May 2011
According to newspaper reports, including one in the Irish Examiner , Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that he and U.S. President Barack Obama had "agreed there would be no change in respect of the US forces using Shannon Airport as a stop-off". The Taoiseach has no mandate or right to enter into such an agreement, and it flies in the face of the programme for government he signed up to just a few short months ago.
The current programme for government , which one can read on the Taoiseach's own official website, says "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". But the agreement made with Barack Obama suggests that the Taoiseach wants to redefine international law. We have not heard any official statements from the government in relation to the use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace by rendition planes, but we now know from its leader that they are not bothered about possible breaches of human rights and humanitarian law by U.S. forces, or about neutrality laws, or about UN mandates for that matter.
No change in respect of U.S. forces using Shannon means that it could be used for another illegal invasion - like Iraq in 2003. In other words, Shannon Airport might well be part of an ill-advised and destructive attack on Libya, or whatever country the U.S. selects next for regime change.
It also means that they can continue to take dangerous military equipment through the civilian airport without adequate oversight or safety procedures. It could mean that Special Forces assassination teams pass through the airport, or that planes used to transport prisoners to places where they are illegally detained and maybe even tortured can come and go as they please. In effect it gives carte blanche to the U.S. forces to do as they please at Shannon.
The issue of neutrality is one that does not seem to bother the Fine Gael government very much either, but it should. The Hague Convention on Neutrality states that “belligerents are forbidden to move troops or convoys of either munitions of war or supplies across the territory of a neutral Power”. Ireland has in the past allowed military aircraft of various nations to refuel at Shannon but this was normally on the basis that they were carrying no arms, ammunition or explosives and that the flights in question were not part of military exercises or operations. But since a previous government agreed to make Shannon available for an invasion of Iraq we have been in breach of the Hague Convention.
Finally it is worth reminding the Taoiseach and Fine Gael of a sentence in their 2003 document on neutrality ( Beyond Neutrality: Security, Social Justice and Responsibility ) which says: "Let us be open with the people and let us put the issues clearly before them" (p.5). Its time to to start doing what your party say you should do, Mr Kenny. Start a proper debate on Irish foreign policy. Focus on providing genuine humanitarian support for victims of war, violence and natural disasters. And stop making foreign policy by stealth, in your chats with visiting presidents.
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