Security expert tells trial use of Shannon is essential to US military

Dáil deputies Mick Wallace and Clare Daly in court over alleged illegal entrance to airport

Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly arrive at Ennis District Court in a case relating to an incident at Shannon Airport last July. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly arrive at Ennis District Court in a case relating to an incident at Shannon Airport last July. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The US military cannot project military power in the global war on terror without the use of Shannon airport as it is currently configured.

That is according to security analyst, Dr Tom Clonan who on Tuesday told a court that “if Shannon was being used by any other group to cause the type of damage that the 2.25 million US troops that have passed through Shannon have caused, then the US would rightly identify it as a target.”

He was giving evidence in a case involving Dáil deputies Mick Wallace (59) and Deputy Clare Daly (46) who appeared at Ennis District Court following their alleged illegal entrance into a restricted area of Shannon airport on July 22nd last.

Representing himself, Mr Wallace told the court that the reason they entered the airport airfield was to search the military planes, because they were not being searched by the Irish authorities.

After Gardaí presented in evidence the rope ladder that Deputy Daly and Deputy Wallace used to scale the airport fence, Deputy Wallace asked Judge Patrick Durcan: “Can I have my rope ladder back?”

Judge Durcan replied that the issue could be dealt with later in the case.

Earlier, CCTV footage has been shown to the court of the two standing on a grass verge located inside the airfield and involved in conversation with airport police.

Airport Police Officer Declan Vaughan told the court when he came across Deputy Wallace and Deputy Daly inside the perimeter fence, Deputy Wallace requested the assistance of the Irish army to inspect a US military plane nearby. Two US military planes were parked on the runway nearby.

Sgt Donal O’Rourke told the court that on meeting the two, he was told by Deputy Wallace they “entered the airport in order to make a political statement regarding the use of Shannon airport for military purposes and to bring it to the attention of the Minister because the minister is not listening”.

Sgt O’Rourke said Deputy Daly sustained a cut to her lip and her two fingers when coming over the airport perimeter fence. She declined any medical assistance offered.

Mr Vaughan told the court all US military aircraft at Shannon airport receive the protection of the Irish army.

In his expert evidence on behalf of the two accused, Dr Clonan said Shannon was a virtual forward airbase of US military.

He pointed out that 2.25 million US troops that have passed through Shannon since 2002 making it the largest invading force to have ever passed through Ireland.

Dr Clonan said that “Irish citizens are perceived now as a hostile party by Islamic resistance groups”.

Former catering contract worker at Shannon airport Patrick O’Toole told how when attending to a US flight carrying military personnel in 2003, he saw rifles under every seat.

At the start of the defence case yesterday, Judge Durcan said he didn’t wish that his court takes on the role of the Skibbereen Eagle.

Judge Durcan made his comment after the solicitor for the TDs, Gareth Noble, said the case touched on the policies of neutrality; the arrangements that exist with the US Government at Shannon and the gap in oversight that exists at national level in relation to the monitoring of the planes at Shannon.

The now defunct Skibbereen Eagle newspaper is best known for a 1898 editorial where it warned it would keep its eye on the Emperor of Russia.

Judge Durcan told Mr Noble he didn’t want his court to embark on a trawl or trail of issues that are totally irrelevant to the case.

Deputy Wallace and Deputy Daly have yet to give evidence in the case and Judge Durcan adjourned it to March 10th.