Shannon could lose U.S. troop transfers to Germany
Shannon Airport, long seen as teetering on the brink, could face the loss of hugely valuable U.S. troop transfers after Germany’s Leipzig airport tabled a major bid for the multi-million euro business.
The Co. Clare airport has recently seen devastating cutbacks by major carriers such as Ryanair, and is expected to next year face a 60pc drop in passenger throughput compared to 2006 figures. Ryanair, to this point Shannon's major carrier, recently cut its operations at the airport after failing to secure a discounted landing charges deal, and its presence at the hub will shortly drop to just a single plane.
It is estimated that over one million U.S. troops have passed through Shannon en route to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2006, with nearly 250,000 passing through in 2009. The business generated by the troop transfers was said to be worth in excess of €9 million last year alone.
With Operation Iraqi Freedom ending on August 31st and the non-combat Operation New Dawn in effect from September 1st, the numbers of military personnel coming through Shannon were expected to drop sharply even before the Leipzig bid surfaced.
The Dublin Airport Authority, which effectively controls both Shannon and Cork, is under mounting pressure amidst rapidly worsening trading performances at what are Ireland's two key regional airports.
From a high of 3.6 million passengers in 2006 and 2007, Shannon’s figures decreased to 3.2 million in 2008 before dropping to 2.8 million last year. It is anticipated this year's number will drop by almost half to 1.5 million.
The downturn has led to immense frustration from business and tourism leaders in the region, with the airport’s board accused of failing to outline clearly the future plans for the hub.
The news will be well-received in some circles however, as the U.S. military’s use of Shannon is seen by many as a violation of Ireland’s neutrality. Since the transits began, the Irish Anti-War Movement and other groups have held a number of protests at the airport, which is also thought to have been used for so-called extraordinary rendition flights by the CIA and U.S. military.
In September 2008 the UN Human Rights Committee expressed its concerns about allegations that Irish airports were being used as stop off points for flights carrying persons to countries where they risk being tortured.
Labour Transport spokesman Joe Costello, speaking recently at a foreign policy conference organized by the Irish Anti-War Movement, said:
"There is need for a…statement that the Island of Ireland, its people, resources and facilities will not be involved actively or passively in external aggression."
Let's make no mistake about it. If the vast amount of income and hundreds of jobs at Shannon Airport are transferred to Germany, much of the blame can be attributed to the misguided far left "whackos" who conducted the despicable demonstrations against our valiant American troops. First of all, these grossly misguided demonstrators continue to labor under the illusion of "Irish neutrality" which is not enshrined in the Irish Constitution and exists only in the minds of those who wish that it was. Secondly, the only difference between our American troops passing through Shannon and any other passengers is the camouflage uniforms they wear.They carry no arms nor do the aircraft that they travel in. Indeed, most of the aircraft are owned by commercial carriers under contract to the U.S. government. Thirdly, it is nothing short of stupidity for a country on the brink of complete financial disaster to throw away multi millions of Euro and much needed jobs to support a policy of "Irish neutrality" which, in fact, does not even exist. God Bless our Troops and God Bless America!
Proudly posted by,
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America