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Saturday 26 May 2018

Pence meeting with US troops at Shannon Airport 'shows erosion of Irish neutrality'

Shannon Airport
Shannon Airport
Mike Pence shook hands and posed for photographs with the troops in the airport terminal (Niall Carson/PA)

Deborah McAleese

The greeting of American soldiers by US Vice President Mike Pence at Shannon Airport raises questions over Irish neutrality, Sinn Fein has said.

Aengus O Snodaigh TD said the meeting "highlights the erosion of Irish neutrality".

Mr Pence shook hands and posed for photographs with the troops in the airport terminal during a re-fuelling stop by Air Force Two on Saturday morning.

The soldiers were on their way to Kuwait.

Mike Pence shook hands and posed for photographs with the troops in the airport terminal (Niall Carson/PA)
Mike Pence shook hands and posed for photographs with the troops in the airport terminal (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Pence was travelling to the Middle East with stops in Egypt, Jordan and Israel.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was also at Shannon Airport on Saturday morning to meet officials about the growth in passenger numbers.

He did not meet with Mr Pence.

It is understood both men were in the airport at different times.

Mr Pence later tweeted about his refuelling stop at Shannon.

He said: "Honoured to see troops based out of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado while refueling in Ireland.

"They are headed to Kuwait for a six-month deployment."

Mr O Snodaigh said the incident "shows how much Irish neutrality has been undermined by successive Irish governments".

"That the US vice-president could address US soldiers, supposedly on their way to the Middle East, in the civilian airport in Shannon, shows just how much successive Irish governments have undermined Irish neutrality.

"These images are a stark reminder that the civilian Shannon Airport has virtually become a forward base for the US army to carry out military operations and exercises," he said.

Mr O Snodaigh added: "Sinn Fein has always stated that the US military's use of Shannon Airport makes a mockery of Irish neutrality and the Irish Government's supposed commitment to neutrality."

He said he is to raise the issue with the defence minister next week.

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