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A Letter Asking President Barack Obama to Respect Irish Neutrality
crime and justice |
Thursday January 22, 2009 18:18 by Edward Horgan - Peace and Neutrality Alliance edward_horgan at hotmail dot com
End transit of US troops, munitions and CIA rendition planes through Shannon airport
A New Strategy for the
Irish Anti-War Movement?
(upper and lower case.)
The Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance has called on the newly inaugurated 44th President of the United States to respect international law with regard to Irish neutrality by taking steps to terminate the transit through Shannon airport of US troops, military material and CIA associated aircraft engaged in extraordinary rendition with immediate effect.
I was invited to Washington by the Cape Cod support group for Barack Obama, and through the good offices of Congressman William Delahunt of Massachusetts, to attend the celebrations surrounding the inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th President of the United States. Given the historic change of direction that this President is likely to initiate in many policy areas especially in the area of international peace, I decided to accept this invitation. However, my initial attempts to enter the US were frustrated by the US Homeland Security Department, who refused me permission to enter the US under the electronic system now being enforced since 12 Jan 2009.
While I received no explanation for this refusal, it became clear later that I am on a special list in Homeland Security due to my peace activist activities, particularly the fact that I played a role in exposing the CIA torture rendition programme that includes the use of Shannon airport by CIA rendition planes. I then had to apply for a visa, which is an expensive process, involving a visa application fee of €104, which in non-returnable even if the a visa is refused, and also requires a visit to the US embassy in Dublin for an interview. Even this visa application was initially unsuccessful as the US embassy in Dublin could not issue the visa on their own authority and had to refer the matter to the US State Department in Washington.....
• Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance - PANA.ie
• Damian Moran Deported from the USA, April 2008 - here, here, and here.
• ShannonWatch.org planespotter website
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• Amnesty International, Ireland and Dublin's Catholic Worker marked GTMO's 7th Anniversary.
• Amnesty International 'welcomes' Obama executive order to shutdown the Guantánamo Gulag.
I had already purchased my tickets with Aer Lingus as prices would have been prohibitive if I left it too late.
I was due to travel on Sunday 18th Jan, and no progress was made in spite of representations by Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator John Kerry, and Congressman William Delahunt. The added weight of Minister John Gormley then led to representations to the US embassy by the Department of Foreign Affairs, and eventually I got word that my visa was approved on Friday 16th Jan. This required further logistical juggling to get my passport from the US Embassy in Dublin to Limerick, but I eventually made my flight and got to Washington late on Sunday night.
The inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States was indeed the most historical and most moving event I have ever attended. Let's hope he lives up the very necessary expectations of real change that Americans and billions of others expect of him. Given the damage his predecessor President George W Bush has done to the reputation of the United States, and the rear physical damage and trauma, including war crimes and crimes against humanity the Bush Administration has presided over, the tasks facing President Barack Obama are huge.
From an Irish context, the Irish Government has been complicit in the crimes of the Bush regime, especially those committed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the abuses of the UN Convention against torture.
I have written the following letter to President Barack Obama urging him to end the abuse of international law and Irish neutrality by US military use of Shannon airport .
To: Senator Barack Obama, President-Elect of the United States of America
Date: 18th January 2009
Subject: Irish neutrality and compliance with international law
Dear Mr President-Elect
Congratulations on your historic achievements so far, and best wishes on your inauguration as President of the United States. I write to you as a friend of the United States and a supporter of your ideals concerning the changes that are needed in national and international affairs. The deep friendship and solidarity that has existed for many generations between the people of the United States and the people of Ireland is based not just on kinship, but is also to a very significant degree based on values. Republican democracy, respect for the rule of law and genuine humanitarian priorities are at the core of these shared values.
For reasons of history as well as relative size and resources the Republic of Ireland has taken a different course to the United States towards the achievement of these core values. Active support for international organisations, including the League of Nations and the United Nations, and promoting sustainable peace and development have been cornerstones of Irish foreign policy. Positive neutrality has been an essential part of this successful strategy that has enabled such a small country to play a substantial role in international peace and development.
Since 20th March 2003, this policy and practice has been critically damaged due to the transit through Shannon airport in Ireland of over one million armed US troops, large amounts of military material, and aircraft engaged in the extraordinary rendition programme whereby prisoners were transported to Guantanamo and elsewhere, where many of them were tortured. Your decision to close Guantanamo Bay prison and to take steps to ensure that the outlawed practice of torture is no longer authorised by the US Government is very welcome, and demonstrates your respect for international law. However, it is essential also that steps are taken to ensure that torture is not carried out elsewhere in secret foreign prisons and prison ships, at the behest of officials or agencies of the United States.
In April 2003 the Irish High Court ruled that the transit of armed US troops through Shannon airport was in breach of international laws on neutrality (Judge Kearns in Horgan v Ireland). In the spirit of hope and “change we can believe in” that you have inspired throughout the world, I request that as soon as you become President of the United States you will take steps to terminate the transit through Shannon airport of US troops, military material and CIA-associated aircraft engaged in extraordinary rendition with immediate effect.
As a former military logistics officer and United Nations peacekeeper, I can confirm that there are no valid logistical reasons for the US military to use Shannon airport given the multitude of NATO airbases in the UK and elsewhere. If the abuse of Irish neutrality at Shannon airport continues, then the friendship and good relationships between the peoples of Ireland and the United States could be irreparably damaged. Humanity waits in anticipation in the hope that you will restore the leading role that the United States has held in respecting and enhancing international jurisprudence.
Dr Edward Horgan,
International Secretary, Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance,
Newtown, Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland.