The Dublin government is coming under pressure from opposition parties to cancel the planned visit by US President George W Bush to Ireland next month. Mr Bush is due to participate in a summit in Ireland on June 25-26.
The Dublin parliament yesterday heard anger from all political parties over Ireland’s continuing role in the US-led war in Iraq.
Minister for State at the Department of Foreign Affairs Tom Kitt said that the government was “deeply concerned” at the continuing slaughter, including the deaths of dozens of people attending a wedding ceremony at the hands of US gunners near the Syrian border.
The minister said the government had urged the US “to make every conceivable effort to avoid civilian casualties” and expressed “abhorrence” for the mistreatment of prisoners. However, he refused to comment on the continuing support provided for US military aircraft at Shannon and Baldonnel airports on the route to Iraq.
Fine Gael chief whip Bernard Durkan described the situation in Iraq as “a truly awful mess”, claiming it was a “sad reflection” on Irish people that they could remain silent in face of the abuse of prisoners and the deaths of innocent people.
Labour foreign affairs spokes-man Michael D Higgins described the situation as “appalling” and accused the Irish government of lacking the courage to condemn the US government over the abuse of prisoners.
Green Party deputy leader John Gormley said the Iraqi people had “suffered immeasurably” at the hands of the US and Britain in the “counter-productive war”.
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghin O Caolain accused the Taoiseach of allowing the 26 Counties to become an aerodrome for a “belligerent political power”.
In an unusually detailed motion published yesterday, the five Sinn Féin TDs accused the Irish government of “assisting hundreds of thousands of US troops to participate in the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq”.
He said the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had been content to repeate the spurious justifications advanced by the US and British governments for the illegal invasion of Iraq.
“He was content to allow Shannon Airport and Casement Aerodrome to become military bases for a belligerent power. The same Taoiseach then claimed that he agreed with the 100,000 people who marched on the streets of Dublin and Belfast to oppose his collaboration with the war and to demand that Irish neutrality be respected and sovereignty restored to our airports and territory.”
In a separate development, the Irish Anti-War Movement urged the government to retract Mr Bush’s invitation.
Spokesman Richard Boyd Barrett criticised the government for continuing to allow the US military to use Shannon and Baldonell Airports.
“We should send a clear message to the US president that the Irish people oppose the US-led occupation of Iraq and we do not want the blood of innocent Iraqis on our hands,” he said.