An anti-war group, that also monitors the movement of US military aircraft through Shannon Airport, is calling on the government to immediately stop the US military using the airport in light of recent Covid-19 breaches.
Last month, US military personnel landed in Shannon and spent a night in a Limerick City hotel in breach of Irish Covid-19 regulations.
The flight had arrived from Bahrain on January 25th and carried on to the US the following day. It’s understood there were 53 personnel on board the C-40 jet, a military variant of the popular Boeing 737 aircraft.
At the time, all passengers were required to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 PCR test and complete a passenger locator form on arrival here.
In response to a parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan, first reported in the Irish Examiner, Foreign Affairs Minister Coveney said the US military personnel had breached Covid-19 regulations.
“Due to an error on the US side, the passengers on the flight did not present evidence of negative PCR tests nor complete passenger location forms,” he said.
After Gardaí became aware of the matter, the US military personnel “self-isolated in a hotel in Limerick overnight, only leaving once to purchase food, while masked,” Mr Coveney said.
“My department and our Embassy in Washington have received apologies, both orally and in writing, from the relevant US authorities, including the US military authorities. The US side has recommitted to full compliance in respect of future landings,” he added.
Now however, anti-war groups have renewed their calls for the US military to be stopped from using Shannon Airport.
Shannonwatch spokesperson Edward Horgan said: “We don’t know the full extent of US military breaches of Covid-19 regulations at Shannon. But we do know that we cannot trust assurances from the US Government. Therefore, the only safe course of action is to withdraw permission for US military and military contracted flights to land and refuel at Shannon Airport.
“Such permission should never have been given in the first instance by any Irish Government, given our policy of neutrality. But now that the US military is presenting a clear risk to public health, there is no option but to end it,” Mr Horgan added.
Last March, the US Embassy told The Clare Herald: “US troops transiting through Shannon Airport have been directed to remain on board the aircraft. Only in circumstances where a maintenance issue requires troops to exit the aircraft will they be allowed to leave the plane and in these circumstances they will not mingle with others passengers in the terminal.”