06 January 2006

Protest over US military flights


06/01/2006 - 18:29:29

Dozens of anti-war protesters picketed the front doors of the Irish Aviation Authority in Dublin tonight over the continued use of Shannon airport by US military aircraft.

Amid allegations that 900 American soldiers are passing through the airport each day to and from Iraq, protest organiser and Pitstop Ploughshares activist Ciaron O’Reilly claimed Ireland was being dragged closer to the war.

“The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s ambiguous stance on the war is getting Ireland more and more involved with the conflict,” he said.

Anti-war protesters previously staged a sit-in at the Aviation Authority during the Ramadan festival in 2003. And in a bid to highlight the issue further a Peace Camp is to be re-established at Shannon Airport this weekend.

The debate has also escalated outside of Ireland, the Council of Europe added its voice to the debate today insisting Irish authorities should be allowed to inspect US war planes landing at the stopover.

The council came out in support of the Irish Human Rights Commission on the need to check for military weapons or the illegal movement of terror suspects en route to alleged CIA interrogation camps.

In a letter to the President of the IHRC, Maurice Manning, it backed the proposal that the Irish Government seeks an agreement from the US to allow inspections.

The use of Shannon by the US Air Force is to be raised at a meeting of Clare County Council in the coming weeks.

Local councillor Martin Conway said: “This is a widely-publicised issue and the rumours about weapons and torture prisoners are damaging the integrity and reputation of Shannon and the people Co Clare abroad.

“The Government is making enough money from the US stop-overs to pay for the deployment of Defence Forces personnel to carry out searches of the military aircraft.”

A trial involving five Pitstop Ploughshares protesters accused of causing millions of dollars of damage to US war planes at Shannon sensationally collapsed in November amid allegations the judge had links to President George Bush.

It was the second time the trial involving Mr O’Reilly had fallen apart in controversial circumstances.

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