Irish public outrage over illegal U.S renditions through Shannon Airport

Ruaidhrí O’ Conghaile, Contributing Writer
Activist Post

The Irish Government are coming under intensified pressure to introduce new measures which would conclusively guarantee that Ireland will no longer facilitate illegal U.S rendition flights.

Newly released American courtroom documents have revealed that US authorities contracted out their illegal rendition flights to a host of private American corporations. The documents show that many such renditions en route to Guantanamo Bay and various secret CIA-run prisons and torture camps operated through Ireland’s Shannon Airport over the past decade.

The revelations came as Richmor Aviation and SportsFlight Air, which acted for US government contractor DynCorp, are locked in dispute over unpaid costs from rendition flights.

Richmor Aviation operated the rendition plane N85VM/N227SV, which we now know beyond doubt passed through Shannon Airport regularly between 2001 and 2005, and was responsible for the rendition of an Egyptian cleric, Abu Omar.

The Seattle Times reports that:

On Nov. 8, 2002, a Richmor Gulfstream, Tail No. N85VM, took off for Shannon Airport in Ireland, then to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, on a flight that paralleled the arrest that month of USS Cole bombing suspect Abd al-Nashiri.

It was the first of a run of secret long-distance flights by the Gulfstream between 2002 and 2005 that paralleled the suspected movements of captured al-Qaida and other terrorist leaders who vanished into CIA-run black prisons after their arrests following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Recently released cables from the U.S. embassy in Dublin have also highlighted the complete disregard both the Irish and U.S governments have shown for national and international laws, Irish sovereignty and human rights. The cables show that protecting U.S. interests has been the primary concern for politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. Cables from former U.S Ambassador to Ireland, James C. Kenny, state that the Irish Government have consistently acted “to ensure continued U.S. military transits at Shannon” and that “the Irish Government has repeatedly defended U.S. interests in the face of public criticism”.

Such statements are of deep concern to Irish citizens.

The same cables also reveal that Ambassador Kenny sought U.S Department guidance “on any next steps regarding the Shannon Five”. This is despite the Shannon Five having been acquitted on all charges by a jury in an Irish Court. Ambassador Kenny’s comments come dangerously close to suggesting U.S interference in the affairs of the justice system of a sovereign state.

Unfortunately, the courtroom files and the recent cables only confirm what many people in Ireland have long known or suspected, but which the Irish Government has repeatedly refused to address. The Government has in the past claimed that it had relied on reassurances by the US that it had not operated such flights through Irish airports or airspace. However, in light of this recent evidence this argument can no longer be reasonably sustained. If such assurances were in fact given to the Irish Government by U.S authorities, we now know that the U.S was supplying false information to the Irish Government. If such assurances were in fact not given to the Irish Government, we now know that the Irish Government was providing false information to the Irish public. Either way, it does not bode well.

Those responsible must now be meaningfully held to account, and the Irish Government must take immediate action to ensure that Ireland will no longer be complicit in illegal U.S renditions, kidnap and torture.

Ruaidhrí O’ Conghaile is an independent Irish Republican, political activist and blogger based in the west of Ireland.  You can read more of his work at Dord Fian

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