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Dublin Opinion >>
More Troops, Less Jobs at Shannon.
anti-war / imperialism |
Tuesday January 25, 2005 12:24 by Tim Hourigan - MAMA 087-9777703
Peace groups object as jobs go, but war stays.
Troops through Shannon up 26% on previous year. Workforce is down 50%.
That's the same workforce who were force- fed the story that their jobs depended on US military use of the airport.
Other lies surround the economic arguments of US Military use of Shannon Airport.
FIGURES released this month by the Dept of Foreign Affairs show that 158,549 US troops passed through Shannon Airport in 2004 (compared to 125,855 in 2003)
The figures indicate that these troops arrived on 1,502 flights (which would be the chartered American Trans Air [ATA], North American, and World jets seen daily at Shannon) and that also there were 753 military aircraft (i.e. officially declared marked aircraft such as the Hercules, C-9s and C-40s) and also 816 'aircraft carrying munitions' which would basically cover the chartered cargo flights operated by Evergreen International and other charter companies, carrying weapons and explosives through a civilian international airport.
Contrast this dramatic increase in business to the dramatic decrease in staff at Shannon, where 260 of the 520 staff are expected to lose their jobs.
During the peak of the opposition of US military use of Shannon, some of the workers spoke out against servicing military aircraft, but they were told time and again by their bosses and the government, that
their jobs depended on the US military dollar at Shannon.
Yet, after keeping a lid on Shannon's darker activities, and watching record military business, half of them are facing the chop because of Government decisions, not the actions of peaceniks.
On ex-worker described a 'climate of fear' in the airport, where workers were expected to keep quiet about what came through the airport and “just give em the food and fuel”.
Some threatened to boycott work on military flights, as illegal and immoral work. According to the former worker, they were told that they would be sacked for this, and that the unions would not back them up.
Another current worker, speaking on condition of anonymity "said that the US military flights at Shannon are treated like royalty". Although the troops represent only 6% of passenger figures, 95% of the security costs are from the military flights.
They have their own gate at the airport - Gate 42- which is reserved
for the military, and it has had special fences and guard cabins erected, and regularly has armed Garda stationed there, as well as a recently installed hi-tech 'invisible barrier' that uses microwave beams to detect motion around the perimeter near the enclosed military stand. There are also specially fenced off and illuminated parking areas in the centre of the airfield for cargo flights carrying ‘uninspected items’ for the Pentagon. These are regularly guarded by the Irish Army and Garda Siochána. The likes of Aer Lingus and Ryanair only see a security van as it passes them by going from the military cargo area to the troop flights.
Official figures repeatedly refer to ‘revenue’ of over €18 million from the military business. But revenue is merely income before profit, and when the costs are removed, the military business is costing the taxpayer plenty. Firstly, there’s the €3 million euros in Air Traffic Control fees that the Pentagon refused to pay last year, and which was paid instead by the Irish Dept of Transport. Then there’s the extra security for the military. The new cameras and motion detectors are not cheap and the extra garda and army overtime cost is estimated at over 20 million (about half of which was on the weekend of the Bush visit to Clare). When these costs are considered, the US military landings at Shannon, are sucking money OUT of the tax coffers, not putting them in.
If the government’s attitude to Shannon doesn’t change it could well end up like Prestwick in Scotland. Prestwick is large modern airport, with its own train station. It was previously busy, but following government policy changes, most of its business comes from Ryanair, and the US and Israeli military.