Ireland Is Putting Peace Activists on Trial

By Fintan Bradshaw, Znetwork, January 25, 2023

The Shannon Stopover

January 11th, 2023 marked the 21st anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison. The prison still housing 35 prisoners represents a shocking example of a failure of international law to protect men being kidnapped and dragged around the world on rendition flights to ‘secret’ torture sites around the world. Some of those rendition flights passed through Shannon airport in Ireland. Although Ireland claims neutrality, the state has allowed American military planes to use Shannon airport as a stopover, refusing to search planes and instead turning a blind eye to the rendition of countless people. Along with this the U.S. military has been able to use Shannon to ferry large numbers of troops and weapons through Ireland and on to wars in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Since 2002 it is estimated that approximately 3 million U.S. troops have passed through Shannon.

Irish Resistance

January 11th 2023 also marked the beginning of a trial that is part of a long history of Irish anti-war resistance to the illegal military use of Shannon airport and Ireland’s complicity in murderous illegal wars and extraordinary rendition. Ed Horgan and Dan Dowling’s have had a long wait for a trial for entering Shannon airport and painting graffiti – DANGER DANGER DO NOT FLY on an U.S. military plane. It is more than five years since 25th April 2017 when Ed and Dan were arrested at Shannon airport.

At the time Ed was quoted as explaining that their actions “were part of an informative protest – to inform the people that we are complicit, and the gardaí [Irish police] are not searching US military aircraft and they should be. They are not doing their job, and as a citizen I feel obliged to help them to do this.”

When arrested Ed handed the gardaí a 35 page list containing the names of 1000 children who had been killed in conflicts involving the U.S. in the Middle East. He said, “The total list, unfortunately, is one million children since 1991. If you want my motivation, it is the killing of children in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen”.

As the trial neared its conclusion Ed Horgan took to the witness box to give evidence and be cross examined by the prosecution. This ended the defence on Monday 23rd of Jan. Today the judge will finish summing up the case and giving her directions to the jury. The jury will then retire to deliberate on the verdict which could be as soon as this afternoon or tomorrow Wed 25th of Jan.

Ed and Dan, currently before the court, are among a long line of protestors including grandmothers, elected representatives Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, U.S. army veterans Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff and faith based actions such as those undertaken by Dave Donnellan and Colm Roddy and most notably by The Pitstop Ploughshares. The 20th anniversary of the Ploughshares action is coming up on February 3rd . More than 38 peace activists have been prosecuted for carrying out non-violent peace actions at Shannon Airport in order to expose and try to prevent Irish complicity in war crimes.

Ed and Dan are supported by international anti-war activists. Kathy Kelly, currently organising the The Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal, recounted the Pitstop Ploughshares trial,

‘Mr. Brendan Nix, a fine orator and barrister, represented  Pitstop Plowshares activists who, days before the U.S. began bombing Iraq in 2003, had disabled a U.S. Navy warplane parked on Shannon Airport’s tarmac.  In his closing remarks, Mr. Nix addressed the entire courtroom:  “The question isn’t, ‘did these five have a lawful excuse to do what they did?’ The question is, ‘what’s our excuse not to do more?’  What will rise ye?”

Ed Horgan and Dan Dowling have steadily risen to the challenge of demilitarizing Shannon airport, demanding that the Irish government honor its Constitution and forbid the use of Shannon airport to transport weapons, or warriors, or people destined for torture in other countries. Irish people are better off because of Dan’s and Ed’s constancy and courage. The world would be better off if people in Ireland organized a massive occupation of Shannon airport, protesting the disgrace of using it as a Pitstop for U.S. militarism.

Ed recently wrote that when he walks past a playground where children are happily at play, he feels intensely aware of the children who are orphaned, maimed, displaced or slaughtered by wars, anywhere. Ed and Dan aren’t criminals, but their trial raises key questions about the criminality of violating Ireland’s declared neutrality by servicing the cruel designs of warlords.’

Current Member of the European Parliament and prominent anti-war activist Clare Daly, herself arrested at Shannon, expressed solidarity with Ed and Dan,

“We will be following this case carefully from Brussels. There is no doubt that against the backdrop of an increasingly militarised EU, with a foreign policy subservient to NATO & the US, Ireland’s neutrality is an important beacon for so many. It’s constant violation by successive governments by allowing the daily use of Shannon by the US military en route to theatres of war is an absolute disgrace. The stance of Ed & Dan on the side of peace and neutrality is needed now more than ever.”

Ciaron O’Reilly, Catholic worker and member of the Pitstop Ploughshares action, was at the court in Dublin as Ed took the witness stand. Recalling his own action, he expressed the hope for the future that the continued resistance against war as conveyed through the actions of Ed and Dan’s shows there is hope yet for humanity.

“February 3rd. 2023 will be the 20th anniversary of our Pitstop Ploughshares disarmament action at Shannon Airport where we managed to stop a U.S. war plane en route to the invasion of Iraq and send it back to Texas! It is horrific to ponder how many Iraqis & Afghanis were slain by the munitions and soldiers who have passed through Ireland since we acted at Shannon. Actions like Ed & Dan’s, where people risk their liberty before the courts in nonviolent resistance, are one of the few sources of hope for the human family.”

This hope is one that needs to be encouraged and nurtured if we are to face the impending crisis of climate change, avoid catastrophic nuclear destruction and prevent horrific conflicts over ever more scarce resources to have any chance of a meaningful future for the children of 2017 and beyond that Ed and Dan’s actions sought to protect.

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