The discovery of a US military prisoner being illegally transported aboard a civilian plane at Shannon airport in the west of Ireland has reignited the controversy over the Dublin government’s failure to investigate allegations of “extraordinary renditions” by US forces.
The US embassy in Dublin confirmed that a soldier who had breached a military code was being carried home from Kuwait but officials had neglected to ask the minister for justice to allow it.
The soldier, dressed in military fatigues, handcuffed and shackled, was discovered when a cleaner boarded the plane.
Foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern said he was concerned by the incident.
“While the transfer of such a prisoner would be lawful under international and domestic law, it requires the consent of the minister for justice,” Mr Ahern said.
“The US authorities did not seek such consent. This failure, though inadvertent, is unacceptable. It is a matter of gravest concern to the Irish government.”
The incident occurred on Sunday when a civilian aircraft landed at Shannon to refuel en route from Kuwait to the US.
Mr Ahern said he met US ambassador to Ireland James C Kenny for an hour where the sequence of events was confirmed.
However, he declined to order searches of CIA-operated flights alleged to be carrying prisoners for interrogation or torture to secret detention centres across Europe.
“I informed the ambassador that, notwithstanding the fact that this incident had no connection with allegations of extraordinary rendition, it was unacceptable that it should happen,” Mr Ahern said.
Sinn Féin International Affairs and Human Rights spokesperson Aengus O Snodaigh TD has called for all planes associated with the CIA or US military to be refused the use of Irish airports and airspace.
“The United States is a law onto itself when it comes to human rights violations,” he said.