Wednesday 28 January 2015

TDs' attempt to search two US planes a 'cheap publicity stunt'

Daniel McConnell and Pat Flynn

Published 23/07/2014 | 02:30

Independent TD's Mick Wallace and Clare Daly were arrested at Shannon Airport yesterday after they allegedly breached a security perimeter. Picture: Brian Arhtur/Press 22
Independent TD's Mick Wallace and Clare Daly were arrested at Shannon Airport yesterday after they allegedly breached a security perimeter. Picture: Brian Arhtur/Press 22
Mick Wallace and Clare Daly being arrested at Shannon Airport. CREDIT: Stephen Murphy / @SMurphyTV3

INDEPENDENT TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly's arrest at Shannon Airport after scaling a security fence has been branded a "cheap publicity stunt".

Mr Wallace and Ms Daly used a rope ladder to clear a barrier around the airport so that they could search two US military aircraft that were parked, under armed guard, on a remote taxiway.

The TDs last night defended the move, claiming former Justice Minister Alan Shatter "challenged" them to do so.

The pair, who are members of the Dail's Technical Group of Independents, said the former minister told them to "produce the evidence" that US military aircraft using Shannon are breaching Irish and international law.

But last night Pat Breen Fine Gael TD for Clare and chairman of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee branded the incident as a "cheap publicity stunt."

Speaking to the Irish Independent, he added: "Legislators must uphold the law and not defy it. This is damaging and gives a bad image of our legislators abroad. I would say that they should be treated no differently than anyone else who did this. There should be no soft options here."

"Given the situation in two aviation zones internationally at present, this is a serious offence. It could also have been very dangerous. If they don't like the truth, they can't be going back to the Wild West taking the law into their own hands," Mr Breen said.

Speaking after their release from garda custody, Mr Wallace said they had been highlighting the issue of US military use of Shannon for the last three years in the Dail.

"We've been asking the Irish government to search these planes and prove they are not carrying weapons or munitions because there are strong suspicions that they are," said Mr Wallace.

"All our calls have fallen on deaf ears but former minister Alan Shatter told us if we could provide the evidence the government would do something and that's what we're trying to do and that's why we tried to reach these two planes."

Mr Shatter did not respond to calls last night from the Irish Independent and the Department of Justice said it had no comment about the incident.

Gardai confirmed a man and a woman were arrested by airport police at 12.20pm after a security fence had been breached. A file is to be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Mr Wallace said: "The Government keeps saying there's no need to search the planes because the US has given Ireland assurances that there's nothing on board. That's not good enough for us and shouldn't be good enough for the Irish people."

Ms Daly accused the Government of "slavishly adhering to the American agenda".

Irish Independent

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