Defence Force members were called to Shannon Airport to assist gardaí in security duties, including dealing with protests against US military aircraft, 324 times last year.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said “common sense” should dictate that imprisoned peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy sign a bond to keep the peace so as to secure her release.
Independent TD Mick Wallace said army security costs were “facilitating war efforts” while soldiers’ families were facing eviction from the Army camp in the Curragh, Kildare.
The Dáil debate came as Ms D’Arcy, aged 79, faces into her fourth week in Limerick Prison after being jailed for trespassing on the runway at Shannon Airport.
Mr Shatter said yesterday: “In 2013, Defence Force personnel were deployed to Shannon Airport on 324 occasions in response to requests for support from An Garda Síochána. The length of each such deployment and the number of relevant aircraft that land and take off during each deployment can vary.”
He said that roles assigned to the Defence Forces included aid to the civil power, which in practice means to assist gardaí when requested to do so.
A Department of Defence spokeswoman said that the army responded to “possible protests” as well as “civil order” issues at Shannon. The army said its role was to assist gardaí in “carrying out security duties”.
Mr Wallace said it was amazing that the army were called to the airport so many times last year for security duties. He also said that if common sense were to prevail, then Ms D’Arcy should be released.
He also queried why army personnel and resources were being used for the airport when soldiers’ families faced eviction from accommodation at army grounds.
Mr Shatter responded that Ms D’Arcy would be released in the morning if she agreed to sign a court bond to keep the peace and to not enter a part of Shannon Airport excluded to the public.
“My responsibility is to ensure that individuals do not wander out onto the runways in Shannon Airport, placing their lives at risk and possibly placing at risk the lives of 200 or 300 passengers,” Mr Shatter told the Dáil.
“Common sense would dictate that the lady in question would sign the bond and the matter would end.”
The Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance is organising a vigil at Shannon Airport this Sunday, highlighting its use by the US military and the near month-long imprisonment of Ms D’Arcy.
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