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...........Pitstop in the wake of Ploughshares '03 action at Shannon Airport!
Recently released Pentagon documents indicate that with a little less sychohancy by the Irish government and a little more nonviolent militancy by the Irish anti-war movement, Ireland could have preserved it's neutral status in '03. Instead, we have had 2 million troop movements through Shannon Airport and ten years of Irish complicity in U.S. wars. Irish complicity in the deaths of 1 million Iraqis - mostly women and children (Lancet Report). Most U.S. troops who invaded Iraq passed through the small civilian Shannon Airport located on the west coast of "neutral Ireland".
On January 29th. 2003, Mary Kelly of the Shannon Peace Camp damaged a U.S. Navy war plane parked on the runway at Shannnon Airport. On January 31st. a government minister Seamus Brennan stated twice on the popular "Late Late Show" that the airport was now secure, there would be no repititon of such an action. Armed Special Branch had been deployed to the airport in response to Mary Kelly's action. On Sunday Feb 2nd the U.S. Navy war plane had been repaired and was located in a hangar at Shannon. In the early hours of Feb 3rd. a group of Catholic Workers known as the "Pitstop Ploughshares", broke into the hangar disabled the repaired US. Navy war plane.
The Ploughshares activists remained in Limerick Prison (two were initially denied bail as security risks, the other three remained in solidarity) throughout Feb 03. The five were slandered by mainstream media pushing the lies of violence against a Garda and and that the Irish taxpayer would be footing the $U.S. 2.5 million repair bill. The Ploughshares were largely marginalised by the leadership of the anti-war movement. On Feb 15th. 100,000 people marched in Dublin against the war.
It is obvious from these documents that the U.S. military, following the disarmament actions of Mary Kelly and the Ploughshares, were rapidly losing confidence in the Irish state's abilty to secure the airport from nonvilolent anti-war direct action.
If the large mid-February march in Dublin had been followed by a nonviolent occupation of the Shannon runway, it could well have been game over for the U.S. military at Shannon Airport. What militated against this was the extremes that the sychophantic Irish government was willing to go in militarising the civilian airport to support the U.S war effort along with the moderate and authoritiarian Irish left militating against further nonviolent direct action. The Irish government deployed the Irish Army to Shannon in response to the Pitstop Plougshaares action.
A proposal by libertarian groups to take mass NVDA at Shannon Airport on March 1st. was promoted in the wake of the success of the Feb 15th. march This proposal was attacked with vigour by moderate and aithoritarian left groups A press conference was callled by such groups (two of which, Labour Party and Greens, were to join future Irish coalition governments that would continue the U.S. military use of Shannon) against further nonviolent direct action at the airport. Whether it was a case of state infiltration of movement leadership, a lack of courage or imagination, a prioritisation of using the anti-war movement as platform to build political careers (some of the key figures ending up elected to the Dail) over engaging in anti-war resistance - confusion was sewn and the NVDA on March 1st. was sabotaged.
The tactics of March 1st. weren't great. If participants had spread out and a small group had occupied the runway causing closure, redirection of aircraft etc it may have been enough for the American military to pull up stumps and relocate to their permanent bases in England.
The dynamics of this month in '03 - from Mary Kelly's disaramament action to the defeat of NVDA that caused so much concern for the U.S. military and Irish government would be a subject worthy of study. Such a study would benefit from the documents recently released by WikiLeaks and other sources. An initial reading of such documents reveals that the Irish government couldn't believe its luck in what it got away with at Shannon Airport. It also reveals the Irish left's ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This would be worthy of reflection before embarking on similar campaigns. Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.
The Pitstop Ploughshares were aquitted at a 3rd. Dubln Four Courts trial in July 06. Mary Kelly's convictions were overturned by the Irish High Court in 2011. Today, eight years later, the wars grind on, escalate and expand with little support or visible opposition in Ireland or eslewhere in the West that is waging them.