Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has called on the government to prevent armed foreign war planes going to or coming from conflicts landing in Shannon or using Irish airspace.
Crowe made the call after it was revealed that a US military aircraft armed with fixed weapons landed at Shannon last month, in what is seen as a clear breach of Irish law and government regulations.
Deputy Crowe said:
“Since US military aircraft began landing in Shannon, on their way to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Sinn Féin have consistently called on consecutive governments to follow a policy of neutrality and to stop aiding foreign powers waging brutal and illegal wars.
“This was ignored by Fianna Fáil led governments, but when this current coalition government came to power there was hope that Labour might force a change in that policy; Labour had previously backed Sinn Féin’s Neutrality Bill, which proposed to insert a policy of positive neutrality into the Irish constitution, back in 2003.
“Additionally this coalition’s Programme for Government included a commitment to ‘enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities, for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law’.
“Sinn Fein has continually called on the Foreign Affairs Minister, Eamon Gilmore, to stop these flights. In response he regularly states that landing permission is only granted to foreign military aircraft when they are unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives, do not engage in intelligence gathering, and when the flights do not form any part of military exercises or operations.
“He has no proof that US military landings don’t breach any of these conditions because his government refuses to allow the relevant Garda Authorities to search these suspect planes. Instead he relies on the assurances from the US government that they adhere to all these conditions.
“The revelation that a military aircraft was armed with fixed weapon should come as no surprise to people, but the fact that they are continually allowed to land at a civilian airport in a supposedly neutral country should.
“This week I received a reply from the Minister to a parliamentary question I submitted on military flights coming into Shannon. In his reply he stated that on board these planes there are ‘a limited number of military personnel’.
“Basically the Minister is saying that these aircraft are not carrying out any intelligence gathering or military exercises or operations, but yet they have military personnel aboard. That just doesn’t add up.
“It would appear that following these latest incidents that the ‘assurances’ he has been given are worth little, and by default his government are aiding the war efforts of a foreign military power and undermining Irish neutrality.
“These military aircraft landings are clearly breaching the government’s own stated requirements and they must stop immediately.”