Landings by CIA flights at Baldonnel denied


A claim that the CIA is using Baldonnel airport for rendition flights has been dismissed by the Department of Defence.

Independent Senator David Norris yesterday told the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs that there was "media speculation, which certainly presents itself as fact, that the CIA is using Baldonnel for these rendition flights, and that the Department of Defence is actually sending bills for the fuel through CIA shadow companies at post office boxes in central Africa".

He added: "This is the extent to which our involvement may be miring us further in this appalling filth."

A department spokeswoman said last night that it was "completely false" to say that Baldonnel was used for rendition flights. Bills for any services at the airport used by the US were sent to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, she added.

At the meeting, representatives of the Midwest Alliance Against the War (Mama) criticised the use of Shannon airport by US authorities for refuelling military aircraft.

Mary Kelly, of the alliance, said that more than 650,000 US armed troops in uniform, accompanied by large amounts of munitions and war materials, had passed through Shannon airport over the past three years.

"It is a fact that many of these same troops have been directly involved in the unlawful killing of up to 100,000 Iraqi people, 46 per cent of whom may have been children," she said.

Those troops, she added, were carrying about 650,000 M16-type automatic rifles, the same number of rounds of high-velocity ammunition, and tens of thousands of tonnes of other munitions of war through the airport.

She added that 303,323 troops used the airport this year, which was double last year's figure.

Edward Horgan, of Mama, said Ireland was closer to Iraq than it was to most of the US. "While we all agree that the Irish have a special friendship with the people of the US, how can we justify declaring the people of Iraq to be our enemies?"

Fianna Fáil Senator Paschal Mooney said those who believed the Government was telling lies on the issue should have specific evidence to back up their claim.

They would also have to explain how, as members of a government, they would respond to the continuing denials from what was a friendly country, with which Ireland had a close cultural, emotional and physical relationship in the sense of having family friends and relatives in the US, he added.

Labour foreign affairs spokesman Michael D. Higgins said assurances had been given on rendition which should satisfy people.