Former Defence Forces officer claims jet fighters at Shannon ‘a ridiculous idea’

Shannonwatch spokesman and peace activist Edward Horgan

A WELL-known former military figure and peace activist has said that under no circumstances should there be a fighter jet squadron based at Shannon Airport.

Edward Horgan, founder of Veterans for Peace and the Shannonwatch group asked: “What are fighter jets going to do about an emergency in Shannon anyway? Shoot down a hijacked Ryanair or Aer Lingus flight full of people?”

Mr Horgan was speaking to the Limerick Post in response to a  proposal from retired Brigadier General Ger Aherne and Lieutenant Colonel Jim Lynott (a retired air corps pilot) to use Shannon Airport as a base for Irish intercept aircraft.

Speaking in an interview with a Clare newspaper, the two argued that the airport is the strongest location for the establishment of an Irish Air Policing Fighter Squadron to intercept rogue activity and respond to threats. 

At an estimated costs of an initial outlay of €350million and an annual cost of €20million, the pair say that it is in reach for Ireland to have a fighter squadron stationed in Shannon.

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It would create positions for 200 air corps personnel and, when families are taken into account, bring up to 1,000 people to live and work in Shannon and Limerick, the former military men said.

The vision for the project is to have advanced supersonic jet aircraft capable of high-altitude, high-speed intercepts.

Aherne and Lynott argue that Ireland currently has only “token” air space policing capability and that Shannon is strategically best placed to intercept the likely direction of any threat.

But retired army commandant and Limerick man, Edward Horgan, told the Limerick Post that while he believes a large portion of the air force’s jets should be stationed at Shannon, to extend the range of search and rescue, air ambulance and humanitarian operations, stationing a whole squadron of fighter jets is not the answer.

“This would be more expensive than the building of the new childrens’ hospital and it would go into budget overruns to station a whole squadron there,” he said.

“And if did have such a capability at Shannon, what would they do? If a plane was hijacked and refused to co-operate, would they then shoot down a Ryanair or Aer Lingus plane full of people?

“The idea that our military would shoot down a plane full of people is unthinkable. And what if there was a Russian military plane in Irish air space that refused to co-operate or withdraw? Would we shoot it down and start a war with Russia?” Horgan pressed.