Government wanted troops to use Shannon Airport

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

THE CONTINUED use of Shannon Airport by the US military en route to war zones has at the request of the Irish Government, new documents have revealed.

THE CONTINUED use of Shannon Airport by the US military en route to war zones has at the request of the Irish Government, new documents have revealed.

The US military would have been willing to withdraw from Shannon following a series of attacks on aircraft there - but the Irish Government did not want them to do so, the documents, obtained by RTE, state.

Documents obtained from the Pentagon through a Freedom of Information request outlined the thoughts of a senior official from US Transportation Command, which oversees the transfer of officers between military bases.

“If the Irish had said, ‘Quit coming to Shannon,’ then we would have found somewhere else to go,” General John W Handy is cited as saying.

It further states that the Irish Government was afraid that if they withdrew from Shannon following the attacks, it would send out a signal that the protesters had won and the Irish State did not want that.

The discussions about a withdrawal appear to have occurred in the aftermath of a protest by the ‘Pitstop Ploughshares’, a group who caused extensive damage a plane there in February 2003, before the invasion of Iraq was launched.

The documents reveal that over two million US military personnel have flown through Shannon Airport since 2001, and the number of flights and personnel travelling through Shannon more than doubled in 2003 when America began its invasion of Iraq.

The busiest year was 2005 when nearly 2,000 aircraft carrying 336,000 personnel flew through Shannon.

Last week, Mayor of Limerick, Fine Gael councillor Jim Long said he wouldn’t back a motion calling for the end of the use of Shannon Airport by the US military.

Local human rights organisation Shannonwatch has called on local authorities to follow the example of Dublin City Council, which has recently adopted a similar motion.

FOR MORE ON THIS STORY SEE THE LIMERICK LEADER PRINT EDITION