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Still more Questions than Answers at Shannon
anti-war / imperialism |
Sunday October 12, 2008 20:41 by John Lannon
Monthly vigil well attended, but questions over unidentified plane meets a wall of Garda silence
A relaxed yet determined crowd gathered at the monthly vigil in Shannon this Sunday evening to protest against the ongoing use of the airport by the US military and CIA. Not surprisingly there was an unidentified aircraft sitting on the airport tarmac at the time. And also not surprisingly, the Gardai were determined to stop any of the concerned vigil attendees from identifying it.
The vigil was brought forward from the earlier time of 5pm to the more travel/family friendly time of 2pm. As a result there was a large turnout of people from Galway, Dublin, Cork as well as counties Clare and Limerick. And while the organisers had absent-mindedly forgotten to inform the Gardai of the change in time, they need not have worried – the usual array of state-paid personnel were there on time. The uniformed cohort maintained a watchful presence on the airport side of the gathering, under the equally watchful eyes of their non-uniformed superiors.
The growing number of banners on display highlighted the growing support for the vigil, and the ongoing collaboration between groups across the activist spectrum. Amnesty International, Galway Alliance Against the War, the People’s Inspection Team, Cosantoiri Siochana, the Quakers were all represented at the gathering, and support was received from a wide range of anti-war war groups who could not attend on the day. Passing motorists beeped their horns and gave thumbs-up of support, and some of the more talented in the gathering provided song and poetry reading to the assembled crowd (thanks John and Fred!)
After the vigil ended at 3pm, a number of the people present felt it was important to ascertain the identity of a seemingly suspicious place at the airport, and to request an inspection if necessary. All too often, it is discovered that planes stopping at Shannon are on their way to/from Guantanamo or other places associated with the torture of illegally held prisoners. The concerned vigil attendees therefore went towards the airport to photograph the plane and to gather whatever other information was available. However they were obstructed by the uniformed Gardai who had hastily left their vehicles and were attempting to tell the group they could not proceed. Nonetheless the group continued towards the airport until they were stopped by a line of newly arrived Gardai who were willing to use force to stop anyone proceeding beyond the airport gantry.
After repeated questions regarding the identity of the plane, its purpose at the airport, and the lack of willingness from the authorities to investigate it, it was ascertained that the plane was not one of those known to be involved in the renditions programme. The group disbanded peacefully when this was established … but not before treating the assembled officers of the state to some song and poetry. It wasn’t enough to mellow most of their expressionless faces - but then again there were inspectors present, so it was probably best for them not to be seen to enjoy the good natured ribbing of the songster from Cork!
The serious side to the day’s events was that it once again highlighted the state’s determination to impede any investigation of the airport’s involvement in torture. The assembled officers either do not know or do not care that Ireland has been – and may continue to be - in contravention of international and national law (such as the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Torture) Act 2000). Instead, the people attempting to gather evidence are treated as the law-breakers.
We look forward to the day when our police force will react with the same haste to the arrival of a torture plane as they did today when a few people went to ask about a parked plane.
(More pictures to follow)