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The Complicity of the Irish Government: Almost 70,000 Armed Soldiers Through Shannon Airport in 2013

By R Teichmann - Posted on 09 March 2014

This article was first published by under the title 'Almost 70 000 armed soldiers through Shannon in 2013' and reposted at under the above title.


The Minister for Transport reported last week that 69,840 U.S. troops passed through Shannon in 2013. While this was down on the 101,108 that passed through in 2012, it is still equivalent to an army 7 times the size of the Irish defence forces. And it is still unacceptable, as the Irish people have not given their permission for any foreign troops to pass through Irish territory – or airspace.

 The Minister, Leo Varadkar, also revealed that almost 700 “civilian” aircraft carried munitions through or over Ireland in 2013. Presumably most of these would have been U.S. troop carriers, as all 69,840 U.S. troops that came through Shannon would have had guns with them.

 In response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Fein’s Sean Crowe TD, the Minister kindly explained that


The Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order, 1973 prohibits the carriage of munitions of war by civilian aircraft without a permit granted by the Minister under Section 5 of the Order.  My Department consults the following organisations on all applications: the Irish Aviation Authority on air safety, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about foreign policy, and the Department of Justice. Where objections are raised permits are refused, usually based on the nature of the cargo.


He provided the following table outlining the statistics for 2013.

Applications received


Cancelled, Duplicated or Withdrawn


Applications Refused


Applications Granted


Flights landing in Ireland




The vast majority of requests came from U.S. airlines he said but applications also came from airlines from the UK, Ukraine, Turkey and Portugal.

 Meanwhile we were told that the military aircraft – the ones owned and operated by the U.S. Air Force and Navy were not carrying munitions. This is according to our Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamonn Gilmore. Again in response to a question from Sean Crowe TD he gave the usual mantra about how the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952 gives the Minister for Foreign Affairs “primary responsibility for the regulation of activity by foreign military aircraft in Ireland, and how permission to overfly or land in the State is subject to certain policy stipulations; namely that the aircraft are unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives, do not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flights in question do not form part of any military exercises or operations“. But then he went on to say that in 2013, there was only one request for diplomatic clearance for an overflight involving an aircraft s carrying munitions. In other words only one military aircraft asked to carry guns through or over Ireland in the entire year.

 And according to Gilmore permission was not granted in this case.

 Of course we also know that there was at least one armed U.S. military aircraft at Shannon in 2013 without permission. Gilmore himself admitted this in the Dáil, after a Hercules C-130 was photographed there with a 30mm cannon sticking out the side. It was, he said, an “administrative” error.

 Even if we believe the administrative error story and that it was a once-off, and if we believe that there wasn’t a single weapon present on any other U.S. military aircraft at Shannon in 2013, we are left with what could at best be described as an inconsistent policy: U.S. military planes are not allowed carry weapons through Shannon, or to be involved in war (even though they land regularly there). But civilian planes like Omni Air International, North American Airlines and World Airways are taking thousands of armed soldiers through every month, to fight in illegal wars.

 So while the government hides behind the pretense of neutrality, the reality is that we are 100% supportive of imperialist forces occupying other sovereign states and committing war crimes.

 And the Irish people are supposed to accept it without ever having had a say.


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