The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has been asked to explain why a plane operating on behalf of the US military was permitted to fly from Shannon Airport to an air base in Turkey last week.
ShannonWatch, a group that monitors military aircraft movements at the mid west airport, has claimed that the air base at Incirlik in Southern Turkey – close to the Syrian border – is used by the US to launch air and drone strikes and to store part of its nuclear arsenal.
The group has said that any involvement in the delivery of military cargo or passengers to Incirlik is therefore a breach of Irish neutrality.
The Miami Air International Boeing 737-800 passenger jet arrived at Shannon on December 30th where it refuelled before continuing its journey about two hours later.
The plane is reported to have spent a similar length of time at the military airbase in Turkey before returning to Shannon in the early hours of Saturday morning.
ShannonWatch spokesman John Lannon said: “As the Minister responsible for the granting of permits to take weapons and munitions through Irish airports, does Minister Shane Ross have information about what was on board the Miami Air plane?”
“He (Minister) has expressed concerns in the past about Ireland’s lack of neutrality, so why does he allow an aircraft flying to and from a major NATO air base like Incirlik to land at Shannon, presumably for refuelling?” Mr Lannon asked.
“If the Miami Air plane had weapons or other dangerous cargo on board it should not have been allowed to park at the terminal building where it presented a safety risk to people using the airport and to workers,” he added.
“The presence of this plane at Shannon also raises questions for the Ministers for Justice and Foreign Affairs” according to Dr Edward Horgan of ShannonWatch.
“Just before the aircraft landed a Garda patrol car entered the air-side area of the airport with its blue light flashing. The authorities were clearly alerted to the arrival of a plane that needed special protection. Why was this required, and who authorised the protection of the US military carrier?” Dr Horgan said.
“In 2003 the High Court ruled that large numbers of US troops and war materials passing through Shannon was in breach of the Hague Convention on Neutrality. Yet, successive Irish governments have continued to allow them to use it as a forward operating base for invasions, occupations and military campaigns throughout the Middle East. Minister Ross is now continuing this flagrant abandonment of our neutrality,” Dr Horgan added.
“US military landings also increase the risk of a terrorist attack that could have dire consequences for the airport or even for Dublin. This alone is a compelling reason for ending them,” Dr Horgan warned.