Opponents of the US military’s use of Shannon airport have expressed serious concern at news that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade only receives statistical reports on military flights after they have taken place.
Shannonwatch, a group that monitors military movements through Shannon, says it is also concerned about a statement from Minister Charlie Flanagan, that the US military has “blanket permission” to use Irish airspace.
The Government has repeatedly stated that permission is granted to US military aircraft to land in or overfly Ireland subject to strict conditions.
These include: “Stipulations that the aircraft must be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives and must not engage in intelligence gathering and that the flights in question must not form part of military exercises or operations.”
In reply to a parliamentary question, Minister Flanagan has told Independent TD for Dublin North Deputy Clare Daly: “The US is granted blanket permission for overflights by unarmed military aircraft.”
“The US Embassy provides my Department with post hoc monthly statistical returns on the total number of overflights by such aircraft. Its return for February 2015 states that there were 48 such overflights by transport, passenger and refuelling aircraft,” the Minister told Deputy Daly.
John Lannon of Shannonwatch said: “We have suspected for some time that there is no oversight of what US military traffic is going through Irish airspace and his answers confirm it.”
“Post hoc reporting means that if the US is taking arms over Ireland in preparation for another illegal invasion or bombing operation, the Irish government doesn’t know about it. And since it would appear that aircraft details are not provided by the Embassy there is no way of knowing what type of missions the aircraft were on even after the fact,” he added.
“We are aware that there has been quite a bit of US military activity at Shannon in recent weeks. We wonder if this is linked to the resupplying of Saudi Arabia with munitions for their bombing campaigns in Yemen and Syria,” Mr Lannon said.
“Our Department of Foreign Affairs should be overseeing our neutrality and our compliance with international law but it doesn’t even know how many US military planes pass through our sovereign airspace until weeks, possibly months after they have done so,” he said.
“Other neutral countries like Austria and Switzerland require all military and military operated aircraft overflying the country to apply in advance to do so. Ireland’s failure to do so seriously undermines its claims to be neutral.
It also makes it impossible to believe assurances about US military aircraft landing at Shannon not being armed or involved in military operations, which is why ongoing efforts to search them are so important,” Mr Lannon added.