Shannon Airport protests 'to continue'


One of the protesters arrested during yesterday’s demonstration at Shannon Airport has said further incursions will be organised to make the US military’s use of the airport “untenable”.

Niall Farrell and Margeretta Darcy were arrested after they breached a security perimeter at the airport to protest against US drone strikes in Pakistan.

The pair stood at the edge of the runway holding signs that read “US military out of Shannon" and "Stop killer drones via Shannon" for about 15 minutes before gardaí arrived and arrested them.

Sgt John McCabe at Shannon Garda station said the pair were released without charge and a file was sent to the DPP.

The incident raised concerns about the security of the airport. Sgt McCabe said there is a “seven-mile perimeter fence – if you want to get in you can get in”.

He added that anti-war groups hold arranged protests each month but that on this occasion they decided to deviate from the established pattern. No military aircraft were on the ground at the time, and disruption was minimal.

Anti-war protestors have targeted Shannon airport for a number of years. Last December activists broke into the airport and severed a hydraulics pipe on an aircraft used to carry US troops. In 2005 a group of activists used axes and lump hammers to cause an estimated $2.5 million (€1.99m) of damage to a US navy aircraft.

Mr Farrell, a member of Galway Alliance Against War, said Sunday’s protest marked the 11th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11th suicide attacks.

He accused consecutive Irish governments of colluding in murder, torture, and kidnapping by allowing the US military to use the airport. He added that he believed campaign groups would begin to step up the amount of protests held at Shannon.

Last year 250,000 US troops passed through Shannon. In a written response to a Dáil question tabled by Pádraig MacLochlainn in June, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said approximately 45,000 troops passed through the airport in the first four months of this year, a decline of 46 per cent to date.

The decline follows US president Barack Obama’s announcement of a gradual withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the number of US personnel who pass through the airport has “declined seriously” since its peak a number of years ago, when the Iraq war was at its height.

Shannon Airport could not provide details of the number of troops and aircraft that have passed through the airport since the US military started using it as a transit point.

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