Shamrock Shame and Shannon

There was a dramatic photo-call at Dáil Éireann on Easter Monday highlighting opposition to what the justice and peace organisation Afri is calling “the shameful handing over of Shannon Airport by the Irish Government to the US war machine”.  Actors Donal O’Kelly, Raymond Keane and Dylan Tighe – dressed as a US soldier, a Guantanamo detainee and an Irish politician – marked the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by dramatically enacting outside the Dáil what Afri coordinator Joe Murray calls “Ireland’s fawning welcome to illegal warriors and its cold indifference to illegal rendition for torture”.

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From left to right: Donal O’Kelly as an Irish politician, Dylan Tighe as a Guantanamo Bay prisoner and Raymond Keane as a US marine in a protest action to highlight the use of Shannon airport by the US military on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war. Photo: Derek Speirs

The actors dramatised how ‘official Ireland’ warmly embraces the US military, while turning a blind eye to the kidnap and torture of civilians.  “This may seem like a ‘stunt’”, said Mr Murray, “but its aim is deadly serious – to use the medium of drama to highlight what standard media coverage of the issue now routinely ignores, namely that we have made ourselves complicit in war crimes and the worst violations of human rights”.

Note: Afri Statement on the Tenth Anniversary of the Iraq War

“As we embark on Ireland’s own decade of remembrance it is crucial to reflect on the last decade and more of complicity in disastrous and immoral onslaughts on Afghanistan and Iraq.  Even if these wars were not illegal – lacking UN authorisation – they have proved catastrophic for the populations and environments involved and in their bitter legacy of resentment and enmity.  As a Security Council member in 2001-02 Ireland failed utterly to express our Constitution’s commitment to  “the pacific settlement of international disputes” (Art. 29.2), thus abetting the undermining of UN authority on foot of unfounded claims about weapons of mass destruction.  Our failure to confront the so-called War on Terror is also revealed in the indifference of successive governments, and the Garda, to the evidence of Ireland’s involvement with illegal rendition flights for torture.

This complicity has been detailed by Shannonwatch, and criticised by the Council of Europe, Amnesty International and, this year, the US-based Open Society Justice Initiative.  The call from our own Human Rights Council in 2007 for an effective inspection regime for all relevant flights has been met with callous indifference.  The new Chief Executive of Shannon Airport has recently declared that military traffic “has been in the DNA of Shannon for many years… [;] it’s lucrative and we are certainly going to go after it as much as possible.”  This obscene metaphor blithely ignores the real genetic legacy of war, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam.  And no-one checks whether equally appalling weaponry, such as depleted uranium, currently flows through Shannon’s bloodstream.

Official Ireland’s line is ‘whatever you do, say nothing, hear nothing, see nothing.’  But in the real world, DNA is a complex of different strands.  Ireland’s ‘DNA’ contains a vital strand of peacekeeping, non-aggression and friendly co-operation.  This has been shamefully suppressed by our political establishment and police authorities, all-too-conscious of their imagined role among the high and mighty, all-too-contemptuous of basic human rights at home and abroad.  Our conniving in illegal aggression and the denial of human rights is a lamentable stain on Ireland’s role in world affairs.  The continuing pressure for further aggression in Iran and elsewhere makes it urgent that we as Irish citizens hold our government to account, not merely to correct a vast historic injustice but to prevent even more death, destruction and denial in the future.”

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