First Irish Wikileaks document reveals US attitude on Shannon Airport
The first Irish Wikileaks document has been revealed, detailing the US attitude about the use of Shannon airport.
James C Kenny, the former US ambassador to Ireland, wrote about how the Irish government had tried to clamp down on its use of Shannon airport for military flights as a political ploy ahead of the general elections, while privately wanting to safeguard the local economy.
The 2006 WikiLeaks â€˜Cablegateâ€™ documents detail the close relationship between the US embassy and Fianna FÃ¡il officials. They also reveal how a senior government official dismissed the â€˜Shannon Fiveâ€™ (a group of anti-war activists who were acquitted of criminal damage to a US plane in 2003) acquittal as â€œbizarreâ€, assuring the US that the verdict did not reflect government policy.
â€˜For segments of the Irish public, however, the
visibility of U.S. troops at Shannon has made the airport a
symbol of Irish complicity in perceived U.S. wrongdoing in
the Gulf/Middle East. This popular sentiment was manifest in
the July 25 jury decision to acquit the â€œShannon Five,â€ a
group of anti-war protesters who damaged a U.S. naval
aircraft at the airport in 2003 in the belief that they would
prevent loss of life in Iraq (ref A). Members of the Shannon
Five have subsequently called for a mass demonstration in
Dublin on September 23 (capitalizing on publicity for the
September 21-24 Ryder Cup tournament and the return of
university students) as part of a campaign to â€œdemilitarizeâ€
the airport. Although it is by no means clear that any
protest will reach â€œmassâ€ proportions, participation in the
planned protest will likely draw from a vocal anti-war lobby
that has demonstrated against U.S. use of Shannon from the
start of the Iraq War up through the recent Lebanon conflict.â€™
The memo goes on to explain how the government had tried to guarantee the continuation of US flights at Shannon, in the face of public criticism.
â€˜In late 2005/early 2006, EU-wide debate on extraordinary
renditions similarly galvanized this lobby, and the Irish
public generally, to question U.S. military access to the
airport. The Irish Government and Shannon continued
U.S. military transits at Shannon in the face of
public criticism. Since the Shannon Five decision, for
example, Irish authorities have upgraded airport security,
doubling the number of police and military personnel
patrolling the facility and introducing rigorous checks at
the parking lot and perimeter fence. (The upgrade is also
partly a response to possible Islamic extremist threats.)â€™