A poll finding that most Irish people oppose the US using Shannon Airport for military purposes has fuelled calls for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to raise the issue with President Barack Obama.
With six in 10 people opposing the military use of the airport, the results of the poll will send a stark message to Washington in a week where relations are usually cordial between Ireland and the US. Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly will release further details of the Red C poll today. They have renewed calls for an inquiry into how Shannon has been used for US military purposes.
Initial details of the poll show 57% of people questioned believe that the Constitution should be changed to ensure Ireland’s neutrality is enshrined in it. However, it also found that the same amount of people oppose the use of Shannon by the United States for military transit purposes, the TDs said.
Mr Kenny, now leading a caretaker government, is expected to face pressure this week to raise the issue of Shannon Airport with Mr Obama during the customary St Patrick’s Day visit to the White House.
A statement from Wexford TD Wallace said that it was imperative now to raise the matter, given the results of the poll. Mr Wallace claimed Ireland had facilitated US missions to Afghanistan and Iraq, through Shannon.
“It’s long past time that Ireland stopped facilitating this horror by refusing to allow Shannon Airport to be used for any military purposes. We need a change of direction. It should start with the new government. It’s time for Ireland to work for peace, not war.”
Commenting on the results, fellow Independent TD, Dublin-Fingal’s Clare Daly, also said action was needed given the definitive results of the survey.
“A country with a policy of positive neutrality would not facilitate the massive, devastating displacement of tens of millions of people through wars whose only purpose is to keep the gears of the military-industrial complex oiled.”
Ed Horgan of Shannonwatch, a former UN peacekeeper who has spent years highlighting military use of the airport, said: “Shannon Airport has been used, or misused by the US military, with the approval of successive Irish governments since October 2001. In the meantime, over 3m armed US troops have transited through Shannon on their way to and from wars and military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere.”
Mr Horgan claims US military aircraft have transported “unknown quantities of munitions and other war materials” through Shannon but that the Government has repeatedly denied the aircraft are carrying weapons and munitions.
The same poll also found that 57% of respondents want changes made to the Constitution, to ensure Ireland’s neutrality. However, the Department of Foreign Affairs said permission must be sought in advance for landings by all foreign military aircraft.
“These include stipulations that the aircraft must be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives and must not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flights in question must not form part of military exercises or operations. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is satisfied that the US is fully aware of the need to comply with these strict conditions.”
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