Shannonwatch calls on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross to explain why a plane operating on behalf of the US military was permitted to fly from Shannon Airport to Incirlik Air Base in Southern Turkey and back on Friday December 30th. The air base which is close to the Syrian border is used by the US to launch air and drone strikes and to store part of its nuclear arsenal. Any involvement in the delivery of military cargo or passengers to Incirlik is therefore a breach of Irish neutrality.
The plane, a Miami Air International Boeing 737, arrived at Shannon on Friday at 1pm, and took off less than 2 hours later. It spent a similar length of time at the military airbase in Turkey before returning to Shannon at 4am the following morning.
“As the Minister responsible for the granting of permits to take weapons and munitions through Irish airports, does Minister Ross have information about what was on board the Miami Air plane?” asked John Lannon of Shannonwatch. “He has expressed concerns in the past about Ireland’s lack of neutrality, so why does he allow an aircraft flying to and from a major NATO air base like Incirlik to land at Shannon, presumably for refuelling?”
“If the Miami Air plane had weapons or other dangerous cargo on board it should not have been allowed to park at the terminal building where it presented a safety risk to people using the airport and to workers.” added John Lannon.
“The presence of this plane at Shannon also raises questions for the Ministers for Justice and Foreign Affairs” said Edward Horgan of Shannonwatch who was at the airport when the plane arrived. “Just before the aircraft landed a Garda patrol car entered the air-side area of the airport with its blue light flashing. The authorities were clearly alerted to the arrival of a plane that needed special protection. Why was this required, and who authorised the protection of the US military carrier?”
Over two and a half million US troops and their weapons have passed through Shannon Airport in the past 15 years on chartered and military aircraft. Most of these now travel on Omni Air International planes. In addition, there are regular US Air Force and Navy aircraft landings at the airport.
“In 2003 the High Court ruled that large numbers of US troops and war materials passing through Shannon was in breach of the Hague Convention on Neutrality” said Horgan. “Yet successive Irish governments have continued to allow them to use it as a forward operating base for invasions, occupations and military campaigns throughout the Middle East. Minister Ross is now continuing this flagrant abandonment of our neutrality.”
“When speaking about the European Council’s position on NATO yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny referred to legal circumstances that apply in countries like Ireland to protect our sovereign neutrality. Actions speak louder than words however, and the actions of his Government in approving the US military use of Shannon airport make a mockery of Irish sovereign neutrality”.
“US military landings also increase the risk of a terrorist attack that could have dire consequences for the airport or even for Dublin. This alone is a compelling reason for ending them” added Mr Horgan.
On December 29th, the day before the Miami Air plane landed at Shannon, a British RAF Hercules C130J was also recorded there by Shannonwatch. The aircraft had taken off from RAF Brize Norton base outside London a short while earlier.
While both planes were at the airport, Shannonwatch contacted the Gardaí to ask them to investigate if they were carrying weapons. As far as they are aware, no investigation was carried out.