State is in ‘gross breach’ of neutrality, war veterans say

Group claims US military’s use of Shannon Airport violates humanitarian obligations

The State is in "gross breach" of its supposedly neutral status and of its humanitarian obligations by continuing to allow US soldiers and aircraft to pass through Shannon Airport, a group of war veterans has said.

Veterans For Peace (VFP), a recently-formed Irish branch of a group established in the US by Vietnam veterans 30 years ago, claimed that some three million US troops had passed through the State via Shannon Airport since 2001.

The Irish group, which includes a veteran of the second World War, was speaking as it laid a wreath of white poppies at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square, Dublin, to mark Armistice Day on November 11th.

VFP said the current "chaos" in the Middle East had been caused mainly by "irresponsible and illegal wars waged under the false banner of humanitarian intervention", just as the first World War had been justified in Ireland as a war "in defence of small nations".


Peace campaigner and former soldier Dr Edward Horgan, secretary of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, said there were many “bogus” humanitarian interventions being carried out under the banner of peace enforcement.

“Why should we be proud to be out killing people in the Middle East? Huge numbers of children are killed in these wars.

"I have eight grandchildren who I love very dearly. But each of my grandchildren is no more precious than all the little children who are being drowned crossing the Mediterranean or who are being blown to pieces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It would be racist for me to say my grandchildren are more important than these children who are being killed.”

He said money being spent on wars should instead be used to reform and fund the United Nations as an international policing bodyand that the State should have a role in that.

"We quite wrongly have Irish soldiers serving in Afghanistan under Nato, and also clearly we are allowing US military through Shannon Airport on their way to make unlawful wars.

“Up to 300 troops a day are passing through,” Dr Horgan said.

Red poppy

Speaking on the weekend’s commemoration ceremonies and the red poppy symbol, Dr Horgan said that they were being used to recruit people into various armies.

“In many cases these people haven’t got jobs, they are not well-educated and they suddenly find themselves in a war situation and are hugely traumatised by that.”

Michael Youlton, of the Irish Anti-War Movement, said the use of the airport by the US military should be made an election issue.

Barry Ladendorf, national board president of Veterans For Peace in the US, a law professor and a former senior officer in the US navy, said he first became disillusioned with the US and what it was doing during his service in Vietnam.

“I think one of the most startling experiences was when I flew home, back from Da Nang, back to the US.

“I was on a big air force plane and there were about two of us and about 250 caskets going back to the States.

“It was probably one of the longest flights I’ve ever been on.”

He spent the flight thinking of all the families affected by the conflict and about the waste of life.

“I decided then, I think, that I needed to never be involved in this kind of thing again.”