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Gavan calls on Tánaiste to end US Military use of Shannon Airport

31 January, 2018 - by Paul Gavan

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has asked Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney how the government can reconcile our state policy of neutrality with the continued use of Shannon airport as a US military forward base. 

Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Gavan said: 

“Just 10 days ago, images of the US vice president rallying US troops on their way to the Middle East went viral across the internet, why? Because he was doing so in a civilian airport in a supposedly neutral country.

“These images served as a stark reminder that for over a decade now our civilian Shannon airport has been blatantly used as a virtual forward base by the US army to carry out militarily operations and exercises in the Middle East. 

“Could you imagine a more salient image to undermine our state neutrality than that of the US Vice President rallying US troops before they are transited off to a war zone in the Middle East to do god knows what? These images make us look like a laughing stock. 

“Since 2002, over 2.5m US troops have transited through civilian airport Shannon on their way to war zones in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Wars in which millions of people have been murdered and mayhem created.

“We also know that in the first 6 months of 2017, 427 permits were approved for military-contracted planes to stop off and fly through Irish airspace. We know from their permits that these planes were on their way to Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain; do you believe that it’s just a coincidence that each of these countries are part of the Saudi-led coalition waging war against the Yemini people? Another conflict in which we have facilitated the murder and destruction of people’s lives. 

“Let’s just call this for what it is, the end to any reasonable claim by Ireland that we are a neutral country. We allow US military aircraft to transit troops and weapons to warzones where they kill people. We are now in the process of committing ourselves to PESCO, a European Army that will involve itself in the missions and crimes of NATO.

“Does the Minister not accept that the Irish people have a right to their civilian airport in Shannon, and that this right has been denied to them? This has been laid bare to people since 2003. What we have is a civilian airport being used as a military forward base.

“The idea the US Vice President could address US soldiers, on their way to the Middle East, in our civilian airport in Shannon, shows just how much successive Irish Governments have undermined Irish neutrality. 

“How does the Minister reconcile these facts with the policy of state neutrality?” 

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