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rabbitte seeks clarification from Bertie on use of Shannon

category national | miscellaneous | news report author Tuesday January 21, 2003 18:26author by Cathy Flanagan - Labour Partyauthor email head_office at labour dot ieauthor address 17 Ely Place, Dublin 2author phone 6784700

rabbitte accuses Government of taking on the role of silent spectator as we drift towards war, questions the use of Shannon airport by US military forces and calls for a debate in the Dail.


The Leader of the Labour Party, Pat rabbitte TD, has written to the Taoiseach asking him to clarify the government's position in regard to the provision of facilities at Shannon Airport for United States military forces who are participating in the U.S. preparations for war against Iraq and requesting the government to agree to a Dail debate on the deteriorating situation as a first priority as soon as the House returns next week.

In his letter Deputy rabbitte said:
"I have found widespread public concern in this country at the ongoing preparations for war at a time when the United Nations Inspectors have still to discharge the mandate given to them by the Security Council. The extent of the U.S. military build-up must give rise to suspicion that the United States intends to proceed with military action, regardless of the findings of the Inspectors and irrespective of whether any further military action might be sanctioned by the Security Council.

"Against this background there must be concern about the growing use of Shannon Airport as an apparent staging post for the military build-up. Facilities that might quite properly be made available to a friendly country during peacetime, may not be appropriate during the course of a war, or in the build up to a war.

"I would therefore ask you to respond to the following questions as soon as possible.
1) What facilities have been sought by United States military forces and what
facilities have the government agreed to provide?

2) What steps are being taken to ensure that aircraft landing at Shannon do
not contain arms or munitions for which permission has not been granted by the government?
3) What steps are being taken to enforce Section 317 of the Defence Act, 1954
which explicitly states that 'no person shall, save with the consent in writing of a Minister of State, enter or land in the State while wearing any foreign uniform'?
4) Is it the intention of the government to continue to provide facilities at
Shannon, if a war is launched and particularly if military action is initiated without the specific consent of the Security Council?
5) Is it the intention of the government to move a motion in the Dail
approving of the provision of facilities, similar to that passed by the House on January 18th 1991 at the opening of the Gulf War?

"I also have to express my disappointment that the government has not been more active and vocal in efforts to avoid what is likely to be a war involving substantial loss of life. Ireland appears to have largely taken on the role of silent spectator as we drift towards war. There is much more that could and
should be done to avert a war and this country should be mobilising
international support for efforts to find a peaceful solution to this crisis.

"I would urge the government to live up to the spirit and letter of Article 29.2 of the Constitution that commits this state to 'the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination'. This should, of course, include exerting all possible pressure on Saddam Hussein to comply in full with all United Nations resolutions.

"Given the gravity of the situation, it is essential that when the Dail returns next week there should be a full scale debate on this crisis in which the government would say what steps it is taking to promote a pacific settlement of this dispute and to explain the basis on which it is providing facilities at Shannon Airport for the U.S. build up", the letter concluded.

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