Irish Republican News · March 19, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Ahern criticised over shamrock exchangr

Irish peace campaigners have condemned the Irish Prime Minister over his traditional Saint Patrick's Day meeting with the U.S. President amid increasing opposition in Ireland to the war in Iraq.

The Irish Anti-War Movement are calling on the public to take to the streets in tomorrow's demonstrations in Dublin against the ongoing facilities provided to the US military at Shannon airport.

They say the traditional exchanging of the shamrock at the White House highlights the Irish government's support of the invasion of Iraq.

Recent events in Spain have focused attention on Irish policy in the Iraqi war, amid fears the country could also become a target for Arab bombers.

Ireland claims a policy of neutrality, but this was largely abandoned in support of the U.S and British invasion last year.

``The Irish Government's policy was to assist the American war effort by giving them the very important facility of Shannon Airport,'' said the Green Party's John Gormley, which was most opposed to the Iraq War.

``We alone of the neutral states assisted the American war effort. Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden: none of them assisted in any way, it would be totally incompatible with the concept of neutrality.''

The response of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Cowen insisted there were ``long-standing arrangements'' for the provision of overflight and landing facilities to US military aircraft, going back 50 years.

``To withhold them now is to redefine, not maintain, the established policy position in this area,'' he said. Identical facilities were provided to the US and its allies during the Kosovo conflict, ``despite the absence of explicit UN authorisation''.


This was described by the anti-war campaigners as ``an excuse'' for preserving the country's close relationship with US corporations.

They urged the Dublin government to cancel the visit of President George Bush to Ireland in June.

One of the protesting groups - the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) - said it was consulting legal advisers to see if Mr Bush could be arrested as a war criminal, as former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested when he visited Britain in 1998.

Mr Roger Cole, chairman of PANA, said the war on Iraq had contravened international law so perhaps a case could be made that Mr Bush was a war criminal.

Dublin is one of 108 cities around the world where marches against the war will be held.

Protesters will gather outside the US embassy at 12.30 p.m. to hear a roll-call of some of the thousands of Iraqis killed since the war began. Anti-war campaigners will also read out the names of American, Italian and Spanish soldiers killed in the war, as well as the victims of last week's atrocity in Madrid.

At 1.30 p.m. PANA will lay a wreath outside the US embassy to commemorate the dead.

Buses have been organised from Cork, Galway and Waterford.

The Socialist Party deputy, Mr Joe Higgins, said the Taoiseach's condemnation of protests against Mr Bush was ``a disgraceful attempt'' to mask the strong Irish opposition to US foreign policy.

``It's clear that Mr Ahern has utterly failed to learn from Senor Aznar's downfall,'' he said, adding that the recently defeated Spanish prime minister had spurned the views of 90 per cent of the Spanish people who opposed the invasion of Iraq.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News