LEAKED documents from the US Embassy in Dublin show that former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern needed more convincing that terrorist suspects were not being brought through Shannon Airport - and at a time when he was assuring the Dail it was not happening.
The revelations are contained in diplomatic cables released by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks.
One cable from December 2004 summarises a meeting attended by Mr Ahern, former US Ambassador James Kenny and Senator John McCain. Classified as secret, Mr Kenny’s communique with his Government details that Ahern had asked him to “confirm that the U.S. has not and will not transport prisoners through Shannon Airport”.
While the Taoiseach assured the ambassador his government had no plans to withdraw the facility at Shannon for US troop traffic, he said the subject was “beginning to worry people”.
“He referenced his government’s repeated defense of the U.S. military’s use of Shannon to parliament, in which he and other ministers have referred to U.S. assurances that enemy combatants have not transited Shannon en route to Guantanamo or elsewhere and will not without consultation. ‘Am I all right on this?’ he asked the ambassador. Following the meeting, Sen McCain told the ambassador he plans to raise Shannon with the Administration when he returns to Washington and will underscore how very important it is that the U.S. not ever be caught in a lie to a close friend and ally,” the cable continues.
Despite “diplomatic assurances” from former president George W. Bush and others that no prisoners were brought through Shannon by the CIA, the Green Party was not convinced. The Greens wanted a parliamentary subcommittee set up to examine human rights issues at Shannon as part of their coalition deal with Fianna Fail but, in a cable dated November 2008 from another ambassador Tom Foley, this was described as a political “sop” to the junior partner.
Shannonwatch, a local human rights organisation with monitors the military traffic at the airport, said successive Irish governments had been caught out by the Wikileaks revelations. They “were more worried about being caught lying over renditions and Shannon than they were in stopping kidnapping and torture. International law and human rights were never even mentioned as Irish politicians looked after their own careers and provided unwavering support for U.S. policy and wars,” Shannonwatch said in a statement this week.
The current programme for government contains a clause that Ireland “will enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law”.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny told President Obama last month that his government would continue providing Shannon for US military use and that their current actions in Iraq and Afghanistan were backed by United Nations resolutions.