€10m: Shannon security bill for US troops
By Mary Regan, Political Reporter - Monday, January 04, 2010 – Irish Examiner
ALMOST €10 million has been spent in just three years on protecting US troops passing through Shannon airport on their way to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Department of Justice figures show the cost of providing Garda security at the airport was €8.6m between 2006 and 2008. This includes €2.8m on Garda overtime, more than €1m in expenses and subsistence claims by the gardaí and €4.8m in salaries.
During the same period, the cost of army patrols at the airport was €964,702, according to Defence Minister Willie O’Dea, bringing the total cost of security at the airport to close to €10m.
The latest figures show more than 243,000 US troops passed through Shannon airport in 2009 – or 665 per day. This brings to more than one million the number of military who used the airport en route to US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of 2006.
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín O Caoláin said the cost to the taxpayer is a "disgraceful situation" and something that should be properly debated in the Dáil.
He said the use of Shannon was "totally and absolutely opposed by the overwhelming majority of Irish people who do not accept the legitimacy of the war in Afghanistan".
The movement of troops is estimated to have been worth around €7m to the airport in 2009.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said it is too early to say if there will be any impact on the airport caused by the recent decision by US President Barack Obama to deploy an extra 17,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2010.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the annual bill of more than €3m was justified.
"The deployment of Garda resources is based on an assessment by the Garda authorities of the measures necessary to ensure the safety and security of personnel, staff, passengers and property at Shannon airport," said Mr Ahern.
Anti-war protesters claim the use of Shannon airport by US troops undermines Ireland’s neutrality. But the Government argues that the missions are being carried out under a UN mandate.
The Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) has criticised the Government’s response to the escalation of US military personnel numbers in Afghanistan.
PANA chairman Roger Cole said Ireland has become a "vassal state" of the "American empire".
"These wars must be stopped now, and the termination of the use of Shannon airport by the US troops is a key step towards peace and economic stability," he added.
PANA held the first anti-war demonstration at Shannon airport in 2002 and has been involved in many protests since then.
Mr Cole said: "While it is the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Pakistan that have suffered most from the wars of the American empire and its vassal states like Ireland, the ordinary American family is being impoverished by its militarist neo-liberal agenda."
The byline at the top of this article is grossly misleading at best, a flat out lie at worst. As stated further on in the article the 10 million Euro figure does not take into consideration the vast amount of income to Shannon Airport in the form of landing fees, fuel charges, and the huge amount of sales to our troops at Shannon Duty Free. They spend very large amounts of money on gifts to be sent home, not knowing whether or when they will be going home themselves. With regard to the tired old story of the damage to “Irish Neutrality”, neutrality exists only in the minds of those who wish that it was embraced in the Irish Constitution. The fact of the matter is that it is not. The fallacy of “Irish Neutrality” has been used on those who do not know this fact for many years. The Irish government is to be congratulated for standing up to the misguided participants in the disgraceful demonstrations at Shannon Airport aimed at our American troops who are serving our country with the highest level of honor and distinction. May God Bless our Troops for their Selfless and Honorable Service to the United States of America.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America