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Defence Forces Operations (Continued)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

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Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly It is obvious that the most significant threat to security at Shannon is the role of the US military. I do not know if the Minister read the article in The Guardian last week which revealed that the US Government sent 100 Hellfire missiles to Iraq over the past number of weeks. We do not know whether those weapons were transported through Shannon but a number of US Air Force aircraft refuelled at Shannon and were present there over the past period. It is appalling that the Minister has confirmed that none of these aircraft was searched by the Defence Forces or the Garda, yet Irish taxpayers' money was expended on having the Defence Forces there. The Minister might like to comment on the fact that a couple of days before Margaretta D'Arcy went onto the runway at Shannon last year there had been a US military aircraft on the runway which had a 30-mm modified Mk 44 cannon located on the front of the fuselage in front of its wings. These aircraft carry depleted uranium. It is highly probable that the aircraft contained the ammunition to go with that. This is an erosion of our neutrality. Why have no searches been conducted?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The incident to which the Deputy refers was contrary to normal conditions that apply to foreign military aircraft overflying or landing in Ireland. It is down to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade that this incident was raised at the highest level with the US Embassy by senior officials in his Department. The US Embassy expressed regret over the incident and explained that it had taken place as a result of an administrative error. That is all I can say to the Deputy about the particular incident she raised.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly That is not good enough. The Minister is not in a position to say whether it was contrary to normal conditions because the Irish State has refused to carry out any searches of the aircraft. The Minister does not know; he is relying on the word of the US authorities. Anybody with expertise in military matters would confirm that it is highly improbable that the aircraft was carrying the cannon and not the ammunition. Depleted uranium results in enormous devastation. The very fact that it was present is a breach of our neutrality. Would the Minister please reconsider the situation and agree that he does not have the authority to say it was abnormal and that he does not know because he refuses to carry out any searches?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Turn a blind eye.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have no knowledge - nor has Deputy Daly - of any aircraft landing in Shannon that was carrying the munitions to Iraq that she mentioned. If the Deputy has information that could confirm that she is very welcome to furnish it to me. I do not jump to assumptions regarding these matters. I cannot add to what I have said on this matter. For many years it has been the case that US aircraft land in Shannon. I do not see why that should be a cause of difficulty. It is extremely unwise for individuals to enter parts of Shannon Airport where they could do themselves harm or cause others to be harmed. Shannon is used in an appropriate manner. The Tánaiste has addressed the incident Deputy Daly raised and has received the assurances that he reported to me, as I mentioned, from the American authorities.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace It is difficult for us to know if the airport is being used at all times in an appropriate manner when we do not search the aircraft. It defies all rationality that we assume that what the Americans tell us is true. Any keen follower of foreign affairs would know that the same people would say mass. The recent revelations about the National Security Agency, NSA, and what the Americans have got up to, despite repeated contradictions, have even further undermined their credibility. Without a doubt, there are arms and troops going through Shannon that are being used for illegal wars.

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