Minister questioned over flight from Shannon to NATO air base

Minister Shane Ross has questions to answer
Minister Shane Ross has questions to answer.
Minister Shane Ross has questions to answer.

A GROUP of peace and human rights activists have called on Transport Minister Shane Ross to explain why a plane operating on behalf of the US military was permitted to land at Shannon Airport on its way to Turkey over the Christmas period.

The aircraft, a Miami Air International Boeing 737, arrived at Shannon at 1pm on Friday December 30 before departing for Incirlik Air Base in Southern Turkey.

According to Shannnwatch, the air base is used by the US to launch air and drone strikes and to store part of its nuclear arsenal.

“Any involvement in the delivery of military cargo or passengers to Incirlik is therefore a breach of Irish neutrality. It spent a similar length of time at the military airbase in Turkey before returning to Shannon at 4am the following morning,” they claimed in a statement this week.

John Lannon of Shannonwatch wants to know what information Minister Ross, the minister responsible for the granting of permits to take weapons and munitions through Irish airports, has about what was on board the aircraft.

“He has expressed concerns in the past about Ireland’s lack of neutrality, so why does he allow an aircraft flying to and from a major NATO air base like Incirlik to land at Shannon, presumably for refuelling?

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“If the Miami Air plane had weapons or other dangerous cargo on board it should not have been allowed to park at the terminal building where it presented a safety risk to people using the airport and to workers,” said Mr Lannon.

Shannonwatch also maintains that the presence of the plane at Shannon Airport also raises questions for the Ministers for Justice and Foreign Affairs.

“Just before the aircraft landed a Garda patrol car entered the air-side area of the airport with its blue light flashing. The authorities were clearly alerted to the arrival of a plane that needed special protection.

“Why was this required, and who authorised the protection of the US military carrier?” asked Edward Horgan of Shannonwatch who was at the airport when the plane arrived.

“In 2003 the High Court ruled that large numbers of US troops and war materials passing through Shannon was in breach of the Hague Convention on Neutrality. Yet successive Irish governments have continued to allow them to use it as a forward operating base for invasions, occupations and military campaigns throughout the Middle East. Minister Ross is now continuing this flagrant abandonment of our neutrality,” Mr Horgan added.

On December 29, the day before the Miami Air plane landed at Shannon, Shannonwatch also recorded a British RAF Hercules C130J there. The aircraft had taken off from RAF Brize Norton base outside London.

by Alan Jacques