The trial of two faith-based peace activists ended in October 2020 with an acquittal of all charges – over four years after the two men entered the airfield at Shannon Airport to protest the presence there of the “murderous machinery” of the US military.
After a nine-day trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, the jury of eleven men and one woman took a little under two hours to return unanimous verdicts of not guilty on the two charges of criminal damage of the airport perimeter fence and runway.
Colm Roddy, aged 78, and Dave Donnellan, 60, had defended themselves and Judge Karen O’Connor commended them both for running their own cases in a dignified and courteous manner.
At the heart of their actions was the men’s belief that their actions were a reasonable response to the use of Shannon Airport by US troops and this belief would form the main plank of their defence.
Colm Roddy of Bayside Walk, Dublin and Dave Donnellan of Reuben St., Rialto, Dublin were stopped on the runway after they had walked towards a US Learjet and asked army and garda officials guarding the plane to search it.
The officials declined to do so and Dave Donnellan later told gardaí in interview that he believed that by doing so they were in gross dereliction of their duty to prevent the further loss of innocent life.
Before being stopped by officials the pair had spray-painted a number of red crucifixes on the airfield tarmac and on the walls of a substation building. These 45 minutes during which the men had walked around unchecked was cited by Dave Donnellan as evidence that the security at the airport was a “laughable joke”.
The charges facing the men alleged that they damaged the fence and runway without lawful authority or lawful excuse, in contravention of section two of the Criminal Damage Act, 1991.
Section six of the Act provides for a defence of lawful excuse where a defendant acted in order to protect himself or another and his actions were reasonable in the circumstances as he believed them to be.
In moving and heartfelt closing speeches both men spoke of their need to respond to the war mongering of the US military.
Dave Donnellan said hat he believed his prosecution for allegedly cutting the fence shows that “we have lost perspective on what’s really important.”
“I believe what’s really important is life itself. The life we share with our loved ones and the life we share with people we don’t know; people in Iraq and Libya and Syria and all the other places affected by US led wars.
“Their lives are as important as our own. That’s what took me into Shannon Airport four years ago,”.
He described how he felt that his journey to Shannon Airport began when as a younger man he listened to the stories of victims of the Nicaraguan civil war.
Colm Roddy told the jury that the US military has been using Shannon as an “effective forward operating base” for over 17 years and he has been protesting about this since then.
He said in that time around 2.5 million US troops have transited through the airport “on way to wars” and that taxpayers money is being used to pay overtime for army and garda officials to guard US military planes at the airport.
He noted that many of these US soldiers have come back “in bits and in boxes” and are as much victims as the people who die in the wars in countries in north Africa and the Middle East.
He became overwhelmed with emotion as he told the court: “As a citizen of Ireland I’m made complicit in this destruction and torture.
“My actions show that I will not meekly allow the State to make me complicit in the murder. This is both a rational and reasonable position to hold,” he said.
He said that he believes his actions had lawful excuse by raising awareness of these issues.
“Lawful or reasonable excuse is a house with smoke coming out it. It is the screaming of a child within. It is the right to enter. Shannon Airport is the house on fire and the screams of dying children can be heard all over the planet,” he said.
Dave Donnellan noted the evidence was that the hole in the fence measured 400 by 350 in millimetres and said these were “reasonable” dimensions.
“The presence of the U.S. Military at Shannon Airport is not a problem that can be measured in millimetres.
“The breach of Ireland’s neutrality and the transformation of Shannon into a legitimate military target under International Law is not a problem that can be measured in millimetres,” he said.
He submitted to the jury that “the forces of law and order are being used in favour of those who place no value on life and against those like Mr Roddy and myself who seek to protect human life”.
Later directing the jury on this law Judge O’Connor reminded jurors of the evidence of the defendant’s motivations.
Dave Donnellan told gardaí that “our faith based intention is the prevention of further loss of life”.
Colm Roddy told gardaí, “I had lawful excuse, I was trying to prevent a much greater illegality which is going on in Shannon Airport”.
He said that he came to the airport to act according to his conscience and “sense of duty to fellow human beings”, to “try to stop damage…to innocent lives”.
Judge O’Connor told jurors they must decide if the behaviour of the accused was reasonable in the circumstances as each of them believed them to be.
“It does not matter if the belief is justified or not as long as Mr Roddy and Mr Donnellan honestly hold the belief,” ” she said.
In his closing speech Colm Roddy further told the jury that the evidence of two Shannon Airport police officers was that they were previously unaware that the airport is, under international law, a legitimate military target because of the presence of the US military.
He said the State “dare not contradict that fact”.
“Our action has at least made some of the people who are taxed with protecting life limb and property in Shannon Airport aware of danger to life limb and property that they were previously unaware of”.
“That for me is lawful excuse for my actions,” he said.
Afri’s 2018 Féile Bríde took place on Saturday 3rd February in Solas Bhríde in Kildare town. It was a rich and full day with contributions from Peadar Kirby about caring for our global village, Hanny Van Geel (Via Campesina), Rose Hogan (Trócaire) on ‘food for life’, John Maguire on ‘Peace Meal Change’ and wrongfully imprisoned Sunny Jacobs and Peter Pringle, as well as music and poetry. You can get a flavour of the day in a short film made by RoJ.
Here is a report from Sr Patricia Mulhall, who attended the conference:
This is the twenty-sixth year of another well-attended Afri conference hosted at Solas Bhríde Centre, Kildare. As visiting speaker, Peadar Kirby named it, the Ard fheis of Afri. Some 200 people attended in the beautiful setting of the Centre & Hermitages, a centre of hospitality, brightness radiating a warm welcome. Brigidines – Mary, Phil and Rita – organise and manage the Centre with Cairde Bhríde, faithful friends and staff.
‘Light out of Darkness’ was a fitting theme for a day punctuated by music and message of hope. Speakers with academic presentations and personal stories enlightened and entertained the participants. The day began with a presentation from Peadar Kirby, entitled ‘Caring for our Global village.’ Peadar is Professor Emeritus of International Politics and Public Policy in the University of Limerick, Ireland. He is associated with the eco-village of Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, a 67-acre site with 50 acres of land for allotments, farming and woodland as well as 50 low- energy homes. (more…)
When we look at the many problems confronting our world, we can sometimes think that things are worse than ever and that little progress has been made towards creating a more just and compassionate world. But it is important that we keep in mind the progress made, as well as the challenges that continue to face us.
When we held our first Féile Bríde in 1988, apartheid was still in place in South Africa, the conflict in the North of Ireland was still raging with nightly reports of deaths and injuries and East Timor was under the jack boot of Indonesian occupation. (more…)
Film by RoJ
On Monday July 25th Afri and friends gathered in Dublin to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the acquittal of the Pitstop Ploughshares on charges of $US 2.5 million criminal damage of a U.S. Navy War Plane at Shannon Airport en route to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (more…)
On the 25th May 2016 peace activists and Afri friends, Dave Donnellan and Colm Roddy, entered Shannon airport to inspect illegal U.S. military war planes stationed there. The three security authorities of the Gardaí, Army and airport police all refused to search the planes for weapons in gross dereliction of their duty to protect innocent civilians. Dave and Colm were arrested and charged with criminal damage without lawful excuse. See article about the action here.
Statement from Joe Murray, Coordinator of Afri: “In light of the courageous faith actions of Colm Roddy and Dave Donnellan in exposing Shannon’s bloody role in war, Afri calls on the government to end the use of Shannon as a warport. The consequences of the wars facilitated by Shannon are seen in the chaos in the Middle East region and the tsunami of refugees driven from their homes to which, in turn, Europe and Ireland has ruthlessly closed their borders.”
Film about the action by RoJ
As the world drifts deeper and deeper into war, wreaking havoc on families, communities and our planet the actions of people like Mick Wallace and Clare Daly in attempting to put on the brakes should be applauded and commended – not penalised. Wars facilitated by Shannon have helped to destabilise areas in the Middle East and beyond, created the anger contributing to the rise of IS/Daesh and unleashed the most serious refugee crisis since the Second World War
It is extraordinary that perpetrators of war and destruction can parade through Shannon unhindered while those who are opposed to war are arrested, demonised and imprisoned. The actions of Mick Wallace and Clare Daly should be a wake-up call to the Irish Government to reverse the shredding of the last remnants of our neutrality and end the use of Shannon for war and destruction.
12th December 2015
Shannonwatch Press release
The Department of Transport has revealed that in 2014 a total of 272 flights were given permits to take weapons or explosives through Shannon Airport. In response to a freedom of information request by Shannonwatch they confirmed that the majority of the flights were taking US troops between military bases and locations in the Middle East. The information also shows that US troop carriers and aircraft with machine guns, rocket motors and other war material are routinely allowed to fly through Irish airspace. Again the majority of these are flying to or from US military bases around the world.
The permits are requested by airline operators under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order. Close to twenty requests were refused in 2014 but the Department would not reveal where these were from or why they were refused. It would only state that they were refused on the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The information provided by the Department shows the alarming level of support that Ireland is giving to US military operations overseas” said John Lannon of Shannonwatch. “Over 550 permits were granted to airlines carrying troops, weapons and explosives to their forward operating bases. There would seem to be an overwhelming bias towards facilitating flights from the US and other NATO countries. How can our government claim we are in any way neutral when this is happening?” (more…)
Film produced & edited by Dave Donnellan, also including filming by Muireann De Barra
“I feel it is my duty as an Irish artist to follow the example of Margaretta D’Arcy and make a stand against the shocking situation of Shannon’s continuing use as an instrument of war.
As St. Patrick’s Day looms I want to help focus attention on the fact that the shamrock is stained with the blood of hundreds of thousands of lives taken by the U.S military campaign, of which Shannon is an essential component. Is this the kind of Ireland we want to celebrate?
The sight of Irish politicians celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S is grotesque while human rights abuses and death continue to be facilitated by the Irish government’s gift of Shannon airport to the U.S war machine. I hope my actions can in some way draw attention to the shameful complicity of the Irish government in mass murder”.
– Dylan Tighe, musician, writer and actor
“At this time of year when a bowl of shamrock is handed over in the White House as a symbol of the gombeen attitude of our leaders, it’s vital to challenge the hypocrisy of the neutral Irish state letting its second airport be used as a warport by the US. How many rendition kidnap flights flew through Shannon with prisoners now in Guantanamo for more than a decade without trial, many force-fed for months? We’ll never know because military flights were not and are not inspected.
I feel compelled to use whatever artistic skills I might have to challenge glib acceptance of the use of Shannon by the US army, as a gesture of solidarity with those far-off communities suffering attack by US armed forces with the complicit aid of Shannon Airport. Not in my name, not with my compliance”.
– Donal O’Kelly, writer, actor and director.
Shamrock, Shame and Shannon: Reclaiming Ireland’s Pride – A protest at Shannon Airport at 12 noon to 1pm on Sunday, March 15th.
To mark the 12th Anniversary of the 2nd US-led war on Iraq and the Taoiseach’s annual cap-doffing, forelock-tugging exercise before the Commander-in-Chief of continuing wars in Afghanistan and around the world, wars in which Shannon plays a crucial role.
Preceded by a ‘cycle of nonviolence’ from Dirty Nellies at Bunratty Castle to Shannon Airport, starting at 11.00 am.
Organised by Afri and supported by PANA
Afri has consistently opposed the abandonment by successive government of Ireland’s policy of neutrality, a policy whereby Ireland pursued largely non-militaristic foreign policy and refused to participate in wars of aggression.
All that has now changed, against the will of the Irish people and governments cravenly provide Shannon Airport to the US for its never-ending ‘war on terrorism’ as well as surrendering our neutrality in many other ways.
Afri recently launched a petition opposing the use of Shannon as a war-port, which is on-going and our Board member John Maguire has devised this campaign called ‘PETALS’ (Peaceful Endeavour to Terminate Aggressive Landings at Shannon) as a way of drawing attention to our continual participation in wreaking death and destruction on other peoples and nations.
John was prevented from handing these peace shamrocks to passengers in Shannon Airport this weekend. Apparently war planes and rendition flights are acceptable in Shannon but not shamrocks!
To sign our petition to show that you oppose the military use of Shannon airport go here.
Shannonwatch Press Release
Shannonwatch welcomes the visit to Shannon Airport by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions. The visit which took place on October 2nd was a follow-up to a petition by Shannonwatch earlier this year. The petition called for the Government to investigate the use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace for the transit of US armed troops, munitions and other war material, as well as for the refuelling of CIA-associated aircraft involved in extraordinary rendition.
During their visit to Shannon, representatives of the Committee met with members of the Gardai including Chief Superintendent John Kerin and with airport officials before meeting again with Shannonwatch. They were informed that about 40,000 US troops had gone through Shannon so far this year. However Shannonwatch understands that airport officials said that US troops were not essential to the economics of Shannon Airport as they contribute relatively little, and that civilian passengers contribute far more with shopping, car parking and so on.
Amongst the topics covered in a constructive meeting between Shannonwatch representative Edward Horgan and the Committee were the non-searching of US military aircraft, and past indications from Gardai that the Attorney General had issued advice not to search suspected rendition planes.
“We had a long discussion on issue of Gardai searching or non-searching of US military and military chartered aircraft” said Mr Horgan. “Gardai continue to insist on needing a warrant from a judge to search chartered troop carriers, and it is even suggested that international diplomatic laws forbids them from searching US military aircraft. We have never received an adequate explanation of the legal basis for such claims”.
Shannonwatch asked the Oireachtas Committee to seek clarification of exactly what laws the government is referring to when it talks about sovereign immunity and chairperson Padraig MacLochlainn TD undertook to follow up on this.
Shannonwatch also raised the fact that military planes and chartered “civilian” troop carriers are treated differently and pointed out that both are bound by international laws on neutrality. “We also pointed out the direct contradiction in government policies when they continue to declare a policy of neutrality while being in gross breach of international laws on neutrality. We recommended that the Committee should consult an international law expert on neutrality and they agreed. Matters of policy are primarily a matter for legislators rather than Gardai.”
“The issue of whether or not a former Attorney General issued advice that suspect rendition aircraft, and maybe even US military aircraft, should not be searched has not yet been adequately addressed.” said Mr Horgan. “If such advice was ever given it would be a very serious matter, and for that reason it needs to be fully investigated.”
Prior to the Committee’s visit to Shannon Padraig MacLochlainn noted that Shannonwatch have also made serious claims that complaints or requests made to Gardaí at Shannon have not been followed up. He went on to say that “The series of meetings on the ground in Shannon tomorrow will assist the Committee in following up this controversial issue. We will also be able to assess first-hand Shannonwatch’s call for an independent inquiry in relation to what they perceive as the failure to investigate aircraft suspected to be involved in illegal rendition.”
During the meeting Shannonwatch’s Edward Horgan noted that while legal issues such as neutrality are important, the reality that Ireland has been facilitating wars in which hundreds of thousands of innocent people including children are being killed, while failing in our constitutional and moral responsibilities to promote international peace and justice, is of greater importance. “We will not allow our government or the Gardai to ignore that fact” said Mr Horgan.
Shannonwatch are organising a large demonstration at Shannon Airport on October 12th at 2pm. It is being supported by peace and anti-war groups from around Ireland, and is being held at a time of renewed bombing in the Middle East by the US and its allies.
Report by Genny Bove
The Irish greeting Céad míle fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes) is no exaggeration. Over in Dublin from Wales again for a few days, this time with Chelsea Manning’s Mum Susan, we are once again experiencing the extraordinary hospitality, warmth and staunch solidarity of our friends here, and it’s wonderful.
Thursday night we gathered at the Teachers’ Club in central Dublin for an evening gathering Resisting Injustice organised by Afri to remember the late, great Gerry Conlon who met and offered his support to Chelsea’s family and who spoke so eloquently against injustice and for Chelsea Manning last November, just a few months before his untimely death from cancer this June.
Donal O’Kelly, the creative force behind January’s Manning Truthfest, was MC for the night. Donal has helped keep the cause in the public eye in myriad ways, most recently dedicating the World’s Best Radio Show award for his play Francisco to Chelsea Manning.
The first speaker was Nuala Kelly, whose talk drew on her extensive experience of supporting Irish prisoners in overseas jails. She recounted how she had at first been more aware of Giuseppe Conlon’s arrest back in 1975 than that of his son Gerry but how later, in her work with the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, she became involved in supporting Gerry and his family in their quest for justice. Nuala emphasised the impact on families when a person is imprisoned and the importance of offering support and working alongside families. She described how the campaign to free the Guildford Four, Maguire Seven and Birmingham Six started to gain momentum, with local groups little by little getting involved and taking their own solidarity initiatives, such as a women’s group organising street stalls in central Dublin. If we are going to build an effective campaign to free Chelsea, we need to find ways to engage as many people as possible as well as being mindful of the perspectives of both the prisoner and her family. (more…)
I was planting a tree in the garden of my north Dublin home on Saturday afternoon when the silence was shattered by a sudden thunderous roar, the like of which I had never heard before, while I caught a glimpse of a black streak flashing across the sky. My wife ran from the house alarmed and fearful – thinking that an attack of some sort was actually taking place. In our local vegetable shop, a staff member reported customers instinctively ‘running for cover’ as they were overwhelmed by the deafening noise. A man in his 70s who was repairing a house nearby had to go inside for an hour as a result of the shock.
We later learned that the cause of our Saturday afternoon jolt was two F-16 war planes, performing a fly-past for the American football match in Croke Park. I thought of the fear that, if only for a few seconds, these war planes had generated. The vaguest hint, perhaps, of what it must be like for families in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere for whom this is a daily reality, except in these instances it is no propagandist fly-past as the war planes ‘deliver’ death, destruction and misery. I thought of what it would be like for my own children if this had been the ‘real thing’, and of those children for whom this sound is the last they will ever hear! (more…)
The justice and peace group Afri have expressed outrage at the “fly past” by 2 U.S. jet fighters as part of the U.S. football match in Croke Park at the weekend.
“Many people in the surrounding areas were shocked and frightened when the silence of a quiet Saturday afternoon was shattered by the thunder of 2 F16 fighter jets which, without warning or explanation, flew overhead in a “lap of honour” for the participating teams. What would it be like if, as in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, they were firing the missiles which are their stock in trade? Who gave consent for this invasion of Irish air space by elements of the U.S. war machine? Is it appropriate that the headquarters of Ireland’s national games, built over many years by the pence and shillings, cents and euros, of loyal supporters should be used as a backdrop for U.S. war propaganda?
If official permission was given, Afri would condemn the authorities in Croke Park and the Irish Government for collusion with this disgraceful display. As with Shannon Airport, this shows a typically supine attitude by the Irish Government to U.S. power. Is there no limit to our willingness to prostrate ourselves before the altar of U.S. militarism? Sport should be a means of bringing people together and promoting peace, not a vehicle for promoting war and militarism,” said Dr. Iain Atack of Afri.
Should there be a recurrence of this event in future years, Afri stated that it will mobilise people to protest against such obscene conflation of war and sport.
Article in the Irish Times by Fiona Gartland: Croke Park Classic: fighter jet fly-past upsets people, dogs and anti-war group
Shannonwatch, 22 July 2014
Shannonwatch welcomes attempts by TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly to inspect US military aircraft at Shannon earlier today. At a time when the airport may be helping to supply the weapons used by Israel to kill and main civilians in Gaza, it is vitally important that we have proper oversight of what is on the military planes at the airport. Despite repeated requests, the authorities refuse to search the planes to ensure they are not in breach of international law.
“We are being told repeatedly that there is no proof there are illegal weapons on the planes” said Mick Wallace. “It is nonsense to suggest that none of them are involved in military operations or that there are no weapons on board these planes, which is what the government says. But because the authorities won’t search the planes to find out if that is the case, people like us have to do it.” (more…)
See photo attached of Hercules C 130 US warplane at Shannon today being “protected” by Irish Defence Forces patrol. In addition to its military forces in Afghanistan, US special forces are also operating in Yemen, in several African countries including Ethiopia and Somalia, and from US navy ships in the Indian Ocean, and war planes like the one photographed below are being used to transport supplies including arms through intermediaries to the rebel side in the Syrian civil war.
No US military aircraft have ever been searched by Gardaí at Shannon airport, even though the Irish Government Jet on a trip to the USA with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was reportedly searched on at least one occasion at Washington Dulles Airport.
Photo provided by Edward Horgan
Link to petition calling for end of military use of Shannon airport: http://www.change.org/
The people of Ireland are being pulled into wars we don’t support. Every week planes full of armed U.S troops pass through Ireland’s Shannon airport en route to conflict zones. The airport has been directly involved in the illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Over two million U.S troops have used Shannon Airport since 2002.
Ireland has even given an exemption to fees for these military flights. In addition, CIA rendition torture aircraft have regularly used the airport en route to the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp and other torture sites. Shannon’s use as vital cog in the illegal U.S. renditions programme has been highlighted by Amnesty International, the Council of Europe, the UN Committee Against Torture and others.
It’s time to show the world that we don’t support the bombing, killing and torture of innocent people.
With Shannon back in the news, we now have a real opportunity to put pressure on politicians to hear our voices.
Please sign and share the petition today.
Signs of hope and causes for optimism are still to be found amid the bleak picture often presented on the daily news. Despite the realities of war, climate change and hunger, we can find hope and inspiration in those who continue to resist, to struggle, to challenge, and even to celebrate.
Imbolc, the ancient Irish festival that marks the beginning of spring, is almost upon us. It represents a time of new beginnings after the long, dark winter. In Irish tradition, people celebrated this time on February 1st, and honoured Brigid, who was noted in legend as a strong and fearless leader that carried a torch for peace, truth and justice. (more…)
Friday 17th of January 2014
Department of Justice, 94 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
Peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy was arrested yesterday and brought to Limerick prison to serve a three month sentence. Ms D’Arcy suffers from Parkinson’s disease and is also being treated for cancer.
She was arrested and charged as a consequence of a peaceful protest against the use of Shannon Airport by US troops on their way to and from their wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere, due to the Irish Governments commitment to active participation and support for the doctrine of perpetual war. She refused to sign a bond to say that she would stay out of unauthorised zones at Shannon Airport.
Please contact Mr. Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice at: firstname.lastname@example.org to seek her release and share this message with your friends.