Press Release ShannonWatch - 25th Jun 2017
In reply to a parliamentary question from Clare Daly TD, the Minister for Transport Shane Ross TD provided details of permits granted to take munitions fo war through Irish airports and airspace over the period 1 Jan 2017 to 31 May 2017.
While the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) imposes imposes restrictions on military aircraft landing at Irish airports or transiting through Irish airspace, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) does not do the same for military contracted planes. According to DFAT, the military aircraft should be unarmed; carry no arms, ammunition or explosives; not be engaged in intelligence-gathering; and the flights must not form part of a military exercise or operation. But DTTAS has responsibility for the military contracted planes, and it gives them permits to take weapons through Ireland every day of the week.
The military contracted planes are operated by the likes of Omni Air International, Sun Country Airlines, Miami Air and Atlas Air. Most of these are carrying troop on their way to or from their deployment to warzones like Afghanistan or Iraq, and many of them land at Shannon.
This is in start contrast to what the government would have us believe about Irish neutrality. In fact an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reaffirmed the Irish Government's commitment to Irish neutrality in reply to media questions in Brussels on 22 June 2017. He said "... Ireland's position on neutrality is longstanding. We believe that by being a country that is neutral but not being part of any military alliance, that it actually makes us stronger in the world, that we're more respected around the world particularly beyond this continent, because we aren't members of Nato and we don't take part in a military alliance, our focus is on other things, like development for example."
It is also worth remembering that on 28th April 2003, in a High Court ruling in the case of Horgan V Ireland et al, Judge Nicholas Kearns ruled that: "The court is prepared to hold therefore that there is an identifiable rule of customary law in relation to the status of neutrality whereunder a neutral state may not permit the movement of large numbers of troops or munitions of one belligerent State through its territory en route to a theatre of war with another".
The information received by Clare Daly TD demonstrates that the Minister for Transport and DTTAS are in breach of the restrictions laid down by the Irish Government and by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with regards to respecting the Irish Government's policies on neutrality. They are also in breach of customary international laws on neutrality, and in particular in breach of the prohibition on the transport of weapons, munitions, explosives, on aircraft through Irish airspace and through Irish airports, and on the restrictions that such aircraft should not be engaged in military operations or exercises. Most of the civilian aircraft listed as transporting weapons and munitions through Irish airports and airspace were on contract to the US military, and most of the weapons were on their way to the Middle East where the United States is engaged in wars and military operations. Therefore on the occasions when DTTAS issued its approval, these aircraft were engaged in military operations or exercises.