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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.


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