Ireland ‘must ensure US planes at Shannon are not carrying arms for Israel’

Shannon Airport (Alamy/PA)
Shannon Airport (Alamy/PA) Shannon Airport (Alamy/PA)

Ireland must inspect US planes landing at Shannon Airport to verify they are not carrying arms bound for Israel, the Dail has been told.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that the US was aiding and abetting a “genocide” in the Gaza Strip and Ireland was “complicit” by allowing the US military to use Shannon.

Mr Varadkar insisted Shannon was not being used by US aircraft travelling to Israel.

Mr Murphy said: “Israel is carrying out a genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. Its number one supporter and military backer is the US.

“As a party to the Genocide Convention, with the duty to prevent the crime of genocide, the US should be imposing an arms embargo on Israel. Instead, it has aided and abetted genocide by increasing military assistance to Israel by 14.5 billion dollars (13.2 billion euro) since the genocide began.

“By allowing Shannon Airport to be used by the US military, while it is aiding and abetting genocide, Ireland is complicit.

“More than 50,000 US troops have passed through Shannon this year alone. You cannot, Taoiseach, continue to take the word of the US that no weapons or troops bound for the Middle East are passing through Shannon, especially when the number of munitions exemptions granted by the Department of Transport went up 42% last month.

“Will you commit to close Shannon or at least to begin inspections?”

Mr Varadkar said there were “very strict rules” around the US military’s use of the airport.

“There aren’t flights going from the US through Shannon to Israel,” he said.

“There are troops being carried to US bases and anybody carrying munitions needs permission and a licence.

“Under the terms of the Air Navigation Foreign Military Aircraft Order 1952, all foreign military aircraft wishing to overfly and land in the state require diplomatic clearance from the minister of foreign affairs. This is subjected to strict conditions with full respect to Ireland’s policy of military neutrality, including that the aircraft is unarmed, that it carries no arms, ammunition or explosives, that it does not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flight in question does not form part of a military exercise or operation.

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

“The policy is well known and fully understood by the United States and other international partners, and it’s done in compliance with Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality.”

The Taoiseach told the Dail that the Government would not be supporting a PBP motion in the Dail this week calling for sanctions against Israel.

He called the motion unbalanced, noting that it made no mention of the Hamas attacks on October 7.

Mr Varadkar said he did not think it was helpful to have a debate on whether what is happening in Gaza constitutes a genocide.

He was responding to Mr Murphy’s party colleague Richard Boyd Barrett, who insisted Ireland has a duty to act under the Genocide Convention to do all it can to stop the killing in the Middle East.

Mr Varadkar said he would not dispute people’s use of the terms genocide or apartheid, but the main focus should be on trying to secure a ceasefire.

“I don’t think it’s helpful to get into a debate about what constitutes genocide and what doesn’t,” he said.

“I don’t think it does help. You mentioned the Holocaust or Shoah being a genocide – six million people were killed by the Nazis, they would have killed another six million if they could.

“I know there are active debates around the famine, around the treatment of indigenous populations in America, in Australia, but I don’t think what this should be about is – and if people want to use words like genocide and apartheid, I’m not going dispute that – but I don’t think that brings us anywhere or achieves anything.

“What this is about is making sure that we have a ceasefire, that the killing stops, that the hostages can be released so that we can get aid into Gaza. And those are the things that are most important, in my view.”