A former US ambassador to Ireland said the Dublin government imposed new conditions on the use of Shannon airport by US troops in 2006 in a bid to secure extra votes ahead of a general election the following year, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.
The message was the first from the US embassy in Dublin to be released by WikiLeaks as part of the whistleblower organisation’s “Cablegate” leaking of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic dispatches.
In the September 2006 cable, which was classified confidential, James C Kenny acknowledged that “segments of the Irish public... see the airport as a symbol of Irish complicity in perceived US wrongdoing in the Gulf/Middle East and in regard to extraordinary renditions”.
He goes on to request a [US government] response regarding the “Shannon Five”, five peace activists who were acquitted of charges of damaging a US aircraft at the airport in 2003.
Some 340,000 US troops passed through Shannon on almost 2,500 contract carrier flights in 2005, as well as an undisclosed number of extraordinary renditions and intelligence flights.
The Dublin government had, Mr Kenny wrote, “consistently . . . acted to ensure continued US military transits at Shannon in the face of public criticism”. But he said the Irish public’s “overwhelming opposition” to Israeli military actions in Lebanon that summer had “exacerbated the governing Fianna Fail party’s sensitivity to public criticism” ahead of the May 2007 general election.
The cable outlined the US embassy’s displeasure at the “Shannon Five” ruling, and Mr Kenny wrote about options that might be considered including the presentation of “an itemized bill for aircraft damages to the Irish Government, either to seek compensation outright or, at least, to convey [US government] dissatisfaction with the Shannon Five verdict.”
He claimed the then political director at the Department of Foreign Affairs had described the acquittal in the trial as “bizarre”.