Seanad debates

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Adjournment Matters

Shannon Airport Facilities

1:55 pm

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Tá mé ag ardú ceist aoradh Margaretta D'Arcy, atá i mbéal an phobail le seachtain anuas. The question I pose has come more into the public domain this week due the incarceration of Margaretta D'Arcy. She is a peace activist, member of Aosdána, an artist and film maker. She has been sent to Limerick Prison for three months on foot of a court decision that her protests at Shannon Airport were illegal. She contested its decision and was sent to prison due to refusing to sign a bond agreeing not to protest again at Shannon Airport. I call for release of Margaretta D'Arcy. She should not have been incarcerated in this manner. The forces of the State could have been deployed in a better manner rather then imprisoning a 79-year old woman who has cancer and Parkinson's disease. She has been a lifelong peace activist and for many years has highlighted the illegality of aircraft using Shannon Airport as a stopover. She is part of the Shannon Watch campaign. Many other groups have also drawn attention to the fact that aeroplanes land in Shannon with military personnel on board. Other reports claim that military equipment has been carried on the aeroplanes and there have been rendition flights through Shannon, etc.

I tabled a motion to draw attention to the issue of the Government allowing foreign armies to use the civilian airport at Shannon as a stopover on their way to wage war and those aeroplanes are suspected of being involved in extraordinary rendition.

In 2006, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, the present Tánaiste, to whom I posed the question, was a member of a Council of Europe committee that examined the issue and reached the conclusion that rendition flights took place at Shannon. At that stage he said that "not knowing is not good enough." He also talked about the fact that he was being told by the Government of the day that there were no inspections and no evidence to prove that this was happening. There was no evidence because inspections did not take place and the Council of Europe has also said it. We also had the Wikileaks documents in which the Tánaiste's predecessor, Deputy Dermot Ahern, admitted he knew about these flights. We have also seen evidence in a New York court case that indicated that Shannon was used for torture flights. The Shannon Watch groups has also presented a lot of documentation on the flights that pass through Shannon Airport that point to its misuse.

We have been given assurances in parliamentary answers that the US Government has assured us that there is nothing untoward going on. I also note that in February 2008, Ed Miliband had to tell the UK Parliament that, "Contrary to earlier explicit assurances that Diego Garcia had not been used for rendition flights, recent US investigations have now revealed two occasions, both in 2002, when that had in fact occurred". The US Government does not have a good track record in telling the truth on these issues. The matter is within the remit of the Tánaiste and he has campaigned against this happening. I commend the President's wife, Ms Sabina Higgins, for visiting Margaretta D'Arcy in Limerick Prison.


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