Shannonwatch - www.shannonwatch.org
A report launched today by Shannonwatch shows that US military use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace costs the Irish state in excess of €4 million euro a year. This is as a result of the Garda policing arrangements at the airport, the use of the Defence Forces to provide additional security, and air traffic subsidies. When once-off costs are taken into account the figure is likely to be much higher.
The report shows that since 2006 the average annual cost of services provided by the Gardai at Shannon Airport is €2.3 million. This includes salaries and allowances, overtime, travel and subsistence expenses, and other non-pay expenditure. The Irish Army is also deployed at Shannon to provide assistance in securing the airport. For this the Irish people have been paying an average of €285,000 a year since 2006.
Between 2003 and 2010 it has cost the Irish state a total of €25 million to cover the costs of foreign military aircraft using Irish-administered airspace. A large percentage of these flights are U.S. planes en route to war destinations in the Middle East and southwest Asia as well as other parts of Europe.
The €25 million cost is due to Ireland’s participation in a multilateral Eurocontrol agreement under which Ireland has voluntarily decided to exempt US military flights from charges. Other neutral European countries such as Austria, Finland and Switzerland do not give free passage to US military flights.
This agreement does not cover the contracted US troop carriers that use Shannon on a daily basis. Even though they carry soldiers and weapons these are classified as civilian flights for air traffic purposes.
“The fee waiver agreement is highly advantageous to countries like the United States that have very large armies and air forces” said a Shannonwatch spokesperson. “But they are of virtually no benefit to countries like Ireland whose few military aircraft rarely travel to the US, except perhaps for the Government jet. By unnecessarily waiving military charges for the US, Ireland is losing a substantial amount of revenue.”
“Even more importantly, because Ireland professes to be a neutral state it should not be subsidising the US military financially”.
In the few cases where the State could benefit financially from the U.S. war traffic it is reluctant to give details. The Dublin Airport Authority has said that landing and parking fees are applied in the case of the main US troop carrier, Omni Air International. However “for confidentiality and commercial sensitivity reasons” they will not say how much it pays for its daily foreign troop flights through Shannon. The Irish Aviation Authority which imposes air traffic control fees also refuse to indicate what en-route and terminal air navigation charges Omni Air International pays.
“The lack of transparency around the payment of charges by the US military and its carriers undermines any statements that politicians make about the use of Shannon being good for the economy” said the Shannonwatch spokesperson. “It would be morally wrong to profit from the hundreds of thousands of lives lost as a result of the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. But it is even more alarming to realise the extent that we are supporting it financially. At a time of economic crisis, the spending of €4 million a year by a supposedly neutral state in support of illegal wars is an outrage.”
"As we mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre it is also important to remember that an unknown number of CIA rendition flights have also passed through Shannon over the years. What, if any, money changed hands to allow these torture flights to proceed unimpeded through Shannon and Ireland is also unknown.”