22,465 US troops have passed through the airport from January 1 to May 31 this year
OVER 6,700 permits for munitions or weapons of war have been granted for flights accessing Irish airspace, and in some cases landing at Shannon and Dublin Airports in the past seven years.
There have been repeated concerns raised about Ireland’s neutrality given the use of Shannon Airport, in particular, as a stop-over for US military aircraft.
However, senior gardai in Limerick said they have “no intelligence whatsoever” to suggest it is at risk as a terrorist target.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross has confirmed that 22,465 US troops have passed through the airport from January 1 to May 31 this year.
He was also questioned by Independents4Change deputy Clare Daly on whether any flights were transiting arms or munitions through Shannon.
The Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order 1973 provides that no munitions or weapons of war may be carried by an aircraft in Irish airspace – without an exemption granted under the order.
Minister Ross said that he “recently decided” that his department should conduct an internal review of this Order, given the changes to international law in the past 44 years.
Figures obtained by the Limerick Leader from the Department of Transport show that a total of 6,761 permits for munitions of war were granted from 2010 up to this May.
The highest number granted – 1,372 – was in 2011.
To date this year, 377 exemptions under this order have been granted, 16 have been refused and two have been withdrawn, with 393 applications processed.
In addition, there were six flights which landed in Ireland with munitions classified as dangerous goods on board.
There were 229 overflights in Irish airspace with munitions on board so far this year.
Of the 377 exemptions granted, 46 flights carried weapons en route to Kuwait, while others were destined for Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Turkey and Qatar.
Deputy Catherine Connolly raised concerns in relation to the use of Shannon Airport by the US military, particularly at a time when “international law has gone out the window with the election of President Trump.”
“More than three million American troops have gone through Shannon based on reassurances from them that they are carrying no arms.
“They are going through Shannon to refuel in order to wage war in countries that are innumerable at this point and the loss of life is appalling. We have a duty to live up to our neutrality and the Minister is simply not doing that and neither is the Government,” she said.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said that “Ireland's traditional and longstanding policy of military neutrality is in no way adversely affected or threatened.”
Minister Flanagan said that successive Governments have made landing facilities available at Shannon to the US for well over 50 years.
These arrangements, he said, are “governed by strict conditions, including that the aircraft must be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives, that they do not engage in intelligence gathering and that the flights concerned do not form part of military exercises or operations.