SECURITY at Shannon has been heightened following Osama Bin Laden’s death, with media reports this week suggesting the gardai and army have listed the airport as an al-Qaeda target.
While there is no intelligence to suggest Shannon would be targeted by the terrorist organisation, the gardai and army view the Clare base as under threat, because of the high numbers of US troops using it as a stopover, as well as local hotels where they sometimes stay overnight.
Although it remains unclear if US President Barrack Obama will use Shannon when he comes to Ireland later this month, the death of Bin Laden in Pakistan this week has forced the hand of the authorities, who feel Ireland could become the focus of the USA’s foreign policy. Mass murderer Bin Laden was shot dead this week by US Navy Seals who targeted the compound in Pakistan where the al-Qaeda head was residing.
The operation - codenamed Geronimo - has made headlines worldwide, and increased fears of retaliation by Bin Laden supporters looking to avenge his death.
Peace campaigner Edward Horgan has said the risk of a terrorist attack has increased at Shannon Airport in the short term, while Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan said the base would represent a “prime target” in Ireland.
However, former Defence Minister Willie O’Dea says he is not “overly worried” about any terrorist threat, with Deputy Niall Collins feeling al-Qaeda would have more “high priority” targets than Ireland.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader, Minister of State O’Sullivan stressed that “every precaution” is being taken ahead of President Obama’s visit to Ireland.
“But certainly I would think it is realistic to suggest that if there are targets in Ireland, then Shannon Airport would be one of those. That’s a reality, because of the use of the airport by US troops. But I would want to assure people that absolutely all precautions are being taken at an international level and at an Irish level,” she explained, “It is essential we have the highest possible security. Those measures are in place, but I don’t think people should be fearful.”