Political activists have demonstrated against stopovers through Shannnon Airport this week by US President George Bush.
Although the 26 Counties is officially neutral, the airport in south County Clare has long been used as a US military transit facility. It is current being used as a US base of operations for the prosecution of its war in Iraq.
There have also been well-documented claims that so-called “extraordinary renditions” -- flights taking war captives to secret CIA prisons in Europe -- have passed through the aiport in defiance of Irish and European law.
Mr Bush’s official aircraft, Air Force One, stopped at Shannon while carrying him to and from an official visit to India and Pakistan.
On his outward journey, Mr Bush engaged in an extended photo-opportunity with US troops, angering anti-war groups. A small group of activists held a protest vigil when Mr Bush’s plane touched down at Shannon airport on his return journey early today.
Airforce One landed just before 2.45am while bringing Mr Bush home to Washington from his state visit to Pakistan and India.
Nobody disembarked from the plane on this occasion, according to airport authorities.
A security operation involving several hundred gardai and soldiers was maintained before and during the hour-long stopover.
Anti-war campaigners spokesperson Ed Horgan warned that such visits put Ireland at risk of a possible terror attack.
“I think if the United States military continue to be allowed use Shannon airport there is a very strong danger Ireland will be attacked, but the attack would be on Dublin, not on Shannon,” he said.
“Leaders like George Bush from countries that are involved in torture should be debarred from Ireland.”
The vast majority of Irish people are opposed to the Bush administration’s foreign policy and the war in Iraq.
Sinn Fein TD and spokesperson on International Affairs, Aengus O Snodaigh, said the photo-opportunity sent out “all the wrong signals” in terms of respect for international law and human rights.
“The US military, the CIA and the ultimate Director of the so-called ‘war on terror’, President George Bush himself, have been given the run of Shannon airport by this government with no questions asked,” he said.
“ This is despite the fact that the United State’s active Rendition Programme violates a range of fundamental human rights including the right to recognition as a person before the law; the right to liberty and security of person; the rights not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“The Bush Administration’s re-definition of torture and the recent UN report on Guantanamo Bay make the assurances from the US, that our own government is so happy to rely on, worthless.”