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Walk and witness at Shannon

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | news report author Monday June 09, 2008 22:58author by John Lannon

On Sunday afternoon, a group of anti-war and human rights campaigners walked the 15 miles from the historic Treaty Stone in Limerick to Shannon airport, scene of Ireland’s complicity in war and torture. There they joined members of Amnesty International, Coisantoiri Siochana and others who had come to attend the monthly Shannon vigil. The vigil was, as always, a peaceful remembrance of all who have died, disappeared or been tortured as a result of the senseless “war on terror”. It was also a reminder to our Irish public representatives that their failure to question US military and CIA use of the airport is shameful and intolerable.
Getting ready to walk from Limerick to Shannon
Getting ready to walk from Limerick to Shannon

Although the Limerick-Shannon peace walk was undertaken by a modest group of 12 people, the youngest of whom was only 6 months old, the impact was significant. The messages delivered to onlookers and passers-by were simple: end the use of Shannon airport as a torture hub; close Guantanamo detention centre; and stop the continuing dilution of Ireland neutrality by voting No to the Lisbon Treaty. Passing motorists beeped their horns in support, helping, along with the good weather, to lift the enthusiasm of the walkers.

While events such as these are attended by a relatively small number of people, their impact should not be underestimated. For a start, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform felt it necessary to deploy at least one officer for every peace/human rights activist on Sunday (at a conservative estimate). Somebody in authority somewhere is taking the peaceful opposition seriously – despite the fact that during months of regular protesting, nobody has attempted to break any laws, threatened anyone or been threatened by anyone. Clearly the state is using taxpayers’ money to protect something else in Shannon.

As passing motorists read the colourful vigil banners, it is not surprising that many show support. They know that what is happening in Shannon is wrong. And one day these passers-by will become sufficiently troubled by what our government is doing to take action. That action may be to remove from office the politicians who stayed silent while Iraqi children were starving and dying as a result of the invasion we assisted; who did not ask if depleted uranium is being transported through Shannon; and who have not questioned the weak and meaningless assurances of US politicians that the airport is not used in the illegal and brutal transportation of prisoners who are never brought to trial. And it might also be to demand answers as to why the politicians stayed silent and complicit.

There is no doubt that Shannon is part of the US/CIA renditions programme. In March of this year Amnesty International reported that the plane which took Khaled al-Maqtari, a yound Yemeni man, from Baghdad to a CIA "black site" in Afghanistan landed in Shannon en route the previous day. Yet the reasonable demands of a growing number of organisations and individuals that known CIA planes be searched goes unheeded. This too troubles more and more of the people in the mid-West, as our government continue to defend the indefensible.

Events like Sunday’s walk and vigil are uplifting because they show that we can do something. The minute’s silent reflection at Shannon in remembrance of the Iraqi people and all tortured and “disappeared” prisoners brought us in some small way closer to the victims of war and human rights abuse. The gathering of friends and activists from Limerick, Clare, Cork, Galway and Dublin, and the talk of concern and support for the raytheon 9, renews existing bonds of solidarity and creates new ones. And as the vigil ends at 6pm there is positive determination that some day there will be accountability for Ireland’s facilitation of torture and suffering.

Comments (3 of 3)

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author by John Lannonpublication date Mon Jun 09, 2008 23:17author address author phone

Next vigil will take place on second Sunday of July (13th) from 5pm to 6pm. Meet as usual at the small roundabout just before the airport.

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

There at last!
There at last!

Remembering the Guantanamo prisoners
Remembering the Guantanamo prisoners

Leaving a message
Leaving a message

And we will continue the protests
And we will continue the protests

author by Edward Horganpublication date Tue Jun 10, 2008 09:19author address author phone

Our protest walk and peace vigil at Shannon on Sunday was mainly focused on the issue of torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison. However, while we were at Shannon two hundred US troops were passing through the airport on their way to or from the Iraq War. While torture is one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed against individuals we must not forget the much larger crimes against humanity that have been committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, by the US military and their allies, in places such as Baghdad, Fallujah, Basra. While not all the people killed in Iraq were killed by US and UK forces, over one million Iraqi people have died as a direct result of the unlawful war waged by the US. The civil war that resulted, including the suicide bombers resulted directly from the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Ireland has been and continues to be directly complicit in this war, and in the Afghan war, and in the torture and crimes against humanity that are still occurring.

We tend to forget the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Recently it was revealed that the large prison camp at Baghram airbase was so overcrowded that the USA has allotted over $300 million to build a new and additional prison camp in Pakistan to hold the increasing numbers of prisoners being captured in Afghanistan. The European Union and NATO are now heavily involved in this Afghan war, and Ireland has 7 Irish army officers serving with the international force in Kabul. So much for Irish neutrality and humanitarian peace missions. The toll of dead and injured civilians, especially children, in Afghanistan continues, virtually unreported.

Is there to be no accountability for all these crimes and abuses of international law?

It is our duty as citizens of Ireland to hold our politicians to account, not only at election and referendum times, but also in the Irish courts, for their complicity in these crimes, and to highlight the elements of war-profiteering involved.

author by Coilín ÓhAiseadhapublication date Tue Jun 10, 2008 13:09author address author phone

Thanks, John, for organising the walk and for publishing this report with pictures.

I was afraid the walk would be tiring or boring or painful on the knees, but I was delighted to discover that it went very briskly with very little effort.

This was a good opportunity to meet other activists and talk about strategy and tactics for a campaign that may have to go on for some years to come. And to chat about all kinds of other things. "Giorraíonn beirt bóthar," the seanfhocal says, and this is particularly true when the other person is a good conversationalist like John Lannon or John Maguire.

And I agree that it was a good way of putting the message across to people we came across along the road.

So I'm looking forward to the next walk.


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