Armed US aircraft’s Shannon stop breached Irish rules
Government raised ‘strong concern’ with the US over plane landing with ‘fixed weapon’
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said it appeared to have been an isolated incident which took place as a result of an administrative error. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
An armed US military aircraft stopped at Shannon airport early last month in breach of Government rules prohibiting planes carrying weapons from landing in Ireland or flying through Irish airspace.
The aircraft landed on September 5th after clearance paperwork submitted by the US mislabelled the type of aircraft requesting landing rights at the airport, which has been frequently used by American military personnel travelling between the United States and war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore revealed details of an aircraft “armed with a fixed weapon” landing at Shannon in a reply to a parliamentary question this week.
A spokesman for the US embassy said that it regretted the incident and said that new procedures had been “put in place to ensure such errors do not take place in the future”.
The embassy declined to answer questions about the type of aircraft or weapon on the plane or where the aircraft had flown from or its destination.
The aircraft landed at Shannon at a time when the US was pressing foreign leaders to support military action against Syria over the use of chemical weapons.
Mr Gilmore said that the Garda and Defence Forces providing security at the airport reported that a US military aircraft, which had landed, was “visibly armed”.
Following an investigation, a senior department official expressed “strong concern” with the US embassy’s chargé d’affaires, the temporary stand-in for the vacant ambassador’s role, at a meeting.
The official made clear to the US representative that “the Irish Government views breaches such as the one that occurred as a matter of the utmost seriousness”, Mr Gilmore said in a statement.
“It would appear that this was an isolated incident which took place as a result of an administrative error and I have noted the steps taken by the US authorities to ensure that there is no recurrence.”
The Tánaiste said that the system for dealing with requests for landing by US aircraft in Shannon was being fully implemented and “kept under regular review” to ensure it complies with Irish law.
“The US authorities have no difficulties with this approach and indeed have expressed their concern to ensure that they are acting in full accordance with our requirements,” he said.