Thursday 27 July 2017

'No change' in policy on US military flight checks

Barack Obama and Enda Kenny in Dublin.
Barack Obama and Enda Kenny in Dublin.

Fionnan Sheahan and Lise Hand

THE Government last night confirmed it will be making no change to the inspection of US military flights through Shannon Airport, despite ongoing accusations about the transport of so-called terror suspects.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny did not seek any new assurances from US President Barack Obama last week when he promised the US military could continue to use Shannon.

And despite the Labour Party repeatedly promising to bring in new laws so suspect aircraft "are subject to proper inspection by the Irish authorities", Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is not proposing any change to the existing set-up.

Last month, Mr Gilmore said: "Shannon will not be used as a means of rendition, facilitating torture or any other activity that violates human rights."

Leaked embassy cables obtained by the Irish Independent revealed successive Fianna Fail-led Governments refused to properly investigate allegations that Shannon was being used by the CIA for extraordinary rendition flights.

Human rights organisations in Ireland and abroad continue to raise concerns about detainees being transported on flights from the Middle East by the US military.

Former Green Party chairman Dan Boyle yesterday said he "wasn't surprised" at the latest revelations contained in the cables obtained by the whistleblowing organisation WikiLeaks.

The use of Shannon was specifically discussed by Mr Kenny and Mr Obama last week.

"We discussed the relationship between Ireland and the States, the continuing importance of that, and I reiterated the no-change policy in respect of the use of Shannon, in respect of American aircraft serving the UN resolutions, passing through," Mr Kenny said after his meeting.

Following the publication of the Ireland cables, a government spokesperson said last night: "No changes are envisaged in relation to inspection of US military flights going through Shannon Airport."

The spokesperson said that where complaints of alleged unlawful activity concerning the use of Irish airports had been made to the gardai, garda investigations had ensued and, where appropriate, files had been submitted to the DPP.

PROSECUTE

"In no case has a direction to prosecute been given," the spokesperson said.

The Government said that on learning of the first allegation of US involvement in extraordinary rendition, the then Government contacted US authorities to seek assurances that rendition had not and would not take place through Irish airports and made clear that such activity would be illegal under Irish law.

"Specific and unique assurances were sought, and received, from the US authorities that no such prisoners had been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be without our express permission," the spokesperson said.

"The Government has no reason to doubt the assurances received at a high level from the US authorities."

The Programme for Government states the Government "will enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law".

The government spokesperson added: "Arrangements for the overflight and landing of US military aircraft have been continuously in place for over 50 years. Civilian aircraft are prohibited from carrying weapons or munitions over Ireland or into Irish airports unless they receive an exemption from the Transport Minister."

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