Independent TDs want neutrality enshrined in Constitution

Independent TDs plan to table a motion in the new Dáil calling for a referendum to put neutrality in the Constitution and will put pressure on the new government to ban the US military using Shannon Airport.

Mick Wallace and Clare Daly joined peace campaigners yesterday who warn that Ireland’s facilitation of US warplanes using Shannon has made the country an “Isis target”.

They released details of a Red C poll which found six in 10 respondents want neutrality enshrined in the Constitution, and also want a ban on the US military flying through Shannon.

The poll of more than 1,000 adults, taken in January, showed half want the Constitutional change. Some 55% believe Shannon should not be used for military transit purposes, with higher levels of support for a ban among women and those living in Dublin.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said US planes have been using Shannon as a transit point since the 1950s. It claims there are “strict” conditions about military aircraft passing through and that they must declare whether they have arms or not on board.

Clare Daly

Mr Wallace, dismissing the department’s defence, said it beggared belief to take someone’s word on it.

“The idea that they take someone’s word, when it costs a quarter of a million [euro] to fly these planes. They don’t go empty. They are not bringing troops to play golf, these guys engage in war,” he said.

“If Americans don’t drop bombs on people’s homes, the arms industry will suffer.”

Ms Daly dismissed concerns that US companies might pull out of Ireland if military planes were banned from flying through Shannon.

“I don’t believe there would be a backlash from the US. Companies would stay here because of the tax rules and the workforce,” she said.

Both have lodged a Dáil motion calling for a referendum on whether Ireland’s neutrality should be enshrined in the Constitution.

John Lannon of the University of Limerick and Shannonwatch said there had been evidence, backed by Amnesty International, that 22 US rendition planes involved in facilitating the torture or kidnapping of terrorism suspects had passed through Shannon between 2003 and 2008.

He yesterday claimed there had been international comments made that the use of Shannon by military planes could make Ireland a target for terrorists. This included comments by radical Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary in Britain who previously said that Ireland is now a legitimate target.

Ed Horgan, a former UN peacekeeper, said yesterday that it had been reported Hezbollah, militants based in Lebanon, had expressed similar sentiments.

Campaigners also pointed out that almost 40 of the new Dáil’s TDs have signed a peace petition which includes calling for a ban on US military using Shannon Airport.

Mr Wallace said, during his trial for protesting within the grounds of the airport, that witnesses had given evidence about actually seeing arms on US planes.

Separately, both he and Ms Daly have ruled out supporting either Enda Kenny or Micheál Martin for the position of taoiseach as both leaders come from parties they would not support.

“I do not want to sit down with Enda Kenny,” said Mr Wallace.

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