Remember Eamon, 'Not knowing is not good enough' - Shannonwatch, 19/09/2011

Remember Eamon, 'Not knowing is not good enough'

Shannonwatch, 19/09/2011  

Over the years Eamon Gilmore has spoken passionately about the lack of inspections of US aircraft suspected of being involved in renditions. In March 2006 he highlighted a Council of Europe statement that the European Convention on Human Rights can be violated through an omission to act. "Not knowing is not good enough" said Mr Gilmore. And a few months later he demanded to know if the Irish government was going to start inspections at Shannon.

Gilmore is now our deputy prime minister. He can ensure that those inspections take place. But in an outrageous change of heart last week he said that the government - his government - has no reason to call into question assurances received from the US authorities.

Not knowing about Irish complicity in torture is perfectly ok with Eamon Gilmore now it seems.

Gilmore's statement was in response to a series of questions from one of his Labour Party colleagues in government. He was asked, among other things, to explain what steps beyond mere diplomatic assurances are taken to ensure that Shannon Airport is not used by aircraft for the purpose of rendition. He was also reminded of the Council of Europe recommendations and the commitment in the programme for Government to enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law. And the best he could come up with was the following

None of the various investigations into allegations of extraordinary rendition, including those carried out by the Council of Europe, have revealed any evidence that rendition through Irish airports has occurred, nor is there any new information or allegation linking Irish airports to acts of extraordinary rendition.

Specific and unique assurances have been sought, and have been received, from the US authorities that no such prisoners had been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be without our express permission. The Government has no reason to call into question the value of the assurances received at a high level from the US authorities in this matter.

This reply ignores two key facts. The first is that there is information to indicate that Shannon was used by rendition/torture flights. Eamon Gilmore has read the Council of Europe reports, and he cannot be so detached from reality to not know about the Amnesty International reports, the Wikileaks admissions that his predecesor Dermot Ahern knew of these flights, the information from a recent New York court case indicating the use of Shannon by torture flights, and indeed the documentation presented by Shannonwatch to the Gardai.

The second fact ignored by Gilmore is that assurances from the US are worthless. He knew this when he demanded inspections in 2007. But perhaps he needs to be reminded again about the British experience with US assurances over rendition flights. In February 2008 the foreign secretary Ed Miliband had to tell parliament that "Contrary to earlier explicit assurances that Diego Garcia had not been used for rendition flights, recent US investigations have now revealed two occasions, both in 2002, when this had in fact occurred".

How long will it be until an Irish foreign minister makes a similar statement about Shannon? And how long will it be before Eamon Gilmore's colleagues in Labour get tired of his refusal to implement his promise to uphold international law?


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