Irish Republican News · December 15, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
The Shannon cover-up

By Tim Hourigan

Having spent the past four years monitoring Shannon airport through wet summers and cold winter nights, I think I can speak for the small group of Shannon watchers when I say it would be nice to be able to trust official assurances.

If we could have trusted Government assurances that Ireland was not participating in the war, and Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea’s assurance that there was “nothing secretive or furtive going on at Shannon airport” and subsequent assurances, then we would have spent more time with our families, and less time with our binoculars and raincoats.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t trust those assurances, and as concerned citizens in a position to investigate, we felt an obligation to verify for ourselves what was going on at Shannon.

Time and again the public were assured that the Government was not allowing anything unlawful or unusual through Shannon airport, only to have them change the goal posts as new information came to light about weapons, cargo planes and “rendition flights”.

In December 2001, when the Government said that the troops were coming from Germany, it was planespotters with binoculars who reported that the troops were wearing desert camouflage. It was planespotters who photographed US Marine Corps KC-130 mid-air refuelling tankers at Shannon. It was planespotters who photographed a US troop-carrying aircraft painted in the Aer Lingus colours, and it was planespotters who made the eyewitness criminal complaints to An Garda Siochana about CIA jets landing here.

In late 2002, we found ourselves in the absurd situation of reading articles in US newspapers by embedded journalists who passed through Shannon to Kuwait with hundreds of troops. (Embedded journalists: Ku-Waiting Game by Noelle Phillips was widely syndicated in US newspapers in November 2002. It even gave details of the bus times and hotels used by the troops in Co Clare.) Meanwhile, the Irish public were being kept in the dark about Ireland’s facilitation of war.

In January 2003, a peace camp was set up at Shannon to monitor and publicise military use of our airport and airspace. At the time, a lot of people were unconvinced that the airport was involved in the war. By the time a High Court injunction closed the peace camp four weeks later, nobody doubted it. And two weeks later, 100,000 people protested not just against the war, but Irish facilitation of it.

We have also monitored the level of troop movements through Shannon, and also the passage of US military cargo aircraft.

If nobody was keeping an independent count, then there would be no pressure for the Government to provide accurate figures in response to Dail questions, or journalistic queries. Standing by the fence and taking notes, it’s not possible to uncover everything that’s going on at Shannon, but by noting the aircraft registration, type, and registered owner, we can provide a starting point for other people to dig further, to demand answers, accountability and even to make criminal complaints.

By confirming the existence of a particular suspicious aircraft, we are in a position to ask if it has ever furnished a manifest declaring its cargo, if it has ever been inspected and how many times it has landed here. All these are questions that should have been asked by the Government, rather than asked of them.

Even without a camp we have continued to monitor the airport, and to publish our findings on the internet, and to inform the media. It was through one of our internet logs that we caught the attention of a Swedish journalist investigating the “rendition” of two men from Sweden on a Gulfstream Jet that we had also spotted at Shannon airport. By sharing information, it was possible to discover that the civilian registered aircraft had military landing clearance and was leased to the US department of defence.

This work led to admissions by the Irish Department of Defence that the plane had landed at Shannon more than a dozen times, before changing registration, and landing again with a “new identity”.

The Irish peace network, Cosantoiri Siochana, intends to purchase a transponder tracking system which will automatically (and legally) give us the details of every aircraft in Irish airspace. We intend to publish this information regularly so that the Irish people will be aware of the full extent of the cover-up at Shannon and inside the Dail.

Most Irish people oppose the war and occupation inflicted on Iraq, but even those who support it must admit that democracy starts at home, and that at the very least, the Irish people are entitled to know the truth and make up their own minds.

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