US President Donald Trump at Shannon Airport in 2014 Picture: Sean Curtin
THE FORMER chief executive of Shannon Airport has voiced his opposition to any potential removal of US pre-clearance facilities in the Mid-West's gateway to America, following widespread condemnation of US President Donald Trump's anti-immigration policy.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, Neil Pakey, the former CEO at Shannon Airport, said that the pre-clearance facilities in Shannon and in Dublin were of "massive strategic importance for Ireland" and "a unique selling point for business in the region.”
Both airports increased their service to the US as a result of the pre clearance centres, he said.
“Shannon and Dublin are the envy of airports across Europe. It does make Ireland more competitive,” said Mr Pakey.
Mr Pakey added that the pre-clearance agreement was legal, and whilst acknowledging that no other airports in Europe have pre clearance facilities, he said some 10 European airports were in negotiations for these facilities.
“My fear is that if Ireland stops the pre clearance service then the others will step in,” he added.
There have been widespread calls in recent days for both pre clearance facilities to be reviewed in light of President Trump’s order that halted the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely banned refugees from Syria, and blocked entry for 90 days for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he had asked for a “complete review” of the US pre-clearance facilities in Ireland.
Doras Luimni, the Limerick-based support group for all migrants living in the Mid-West, and an advocate for human rights, said to its knowledge no one has been detained at Shannon and prevented from travelling on to the US following the ban.
“We have been in contact with the authorities at Shannon Airport and they informed us that, as yet, there are no persons there affected by the ban," said Leonie Kerins, director of Doras Luimni.
"We have informed the airport that we are happy to assist anyone who may be affected and can do so by providing legal information and advice on immigration. We will support anyone who this ban applies to and in whatever way we can," said Ms Kerins.
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said that the operation of US immigration pre-clearance at Irish airports must be “urgently reviewed”, after experts in human rights law warned the application at Irish airports of the US ban on people from seven mainly Muslim countries may be illegal.
The Shannon Watch group will hold a protest at the airport this Thursday, February 2, at 6pm.