Many Irish people are sick to the teeth of Ireland’s part in American armed robbery in the Middle East. On 15 February over 100,000 people marched through Dublin city centre against the war on Iraq, and US military flights refuelling in Shannon Airport. It was the largest ever demonstration in Ireland against war, and there had not been so many people on the streets since the tax protests 20 years ago.
Ongoing nonviolent direct actions and court actions have helped too, to expose and disrupt Ireland’s participation in this so-called “war on terror”. More than twenty people are now barred by the courts from entering Shannon Airport because of their extensive military plane-spotting and plane-stopping activities there.
It takes effort to deny what’s going on: Shannon Airport is used as a US airbase and Ireland is participating in America’s imperialist wars. Airport officials say that over 30,000 US troops bound for the Middle East have passed through Shannon Airport, on the west coast of Ireland, since December 2002 alone. At present the airport is patrolled by the Irish Defence Forces 12th Infantry Battalion, equipped with assault rifles and armoured personnel carriers mounted with machineguns, to stop interference from protesters in the business of US military flights refuelling there.
I even recall watching George W. Bush say to a beaming Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in the White House on St. Patrick’s Day last year that “Ireland is a valued member of the international coalition against terrorism. Ireland has allowed American military planes to use its airports”. It couldn’t be any clearer.
SUBSERVIENT WRETCHES IN GOVERNMENT
In London Tony Blair is still piping on about the morality of war, and pretending that the militarisation of British civilian airports is to protect us from harmful terrorists. Nobody believes that liar. Meanwhile the Irish administration make no pretence about their intent to hang on the coat tails of whatever empire will fart in their direction.
“On the current dispute between the United States and Iraq,” spouted Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Willy O’Dea TD in the Irish parliament January 30th, “I am unashamedly on the side of the United States which is led by people who are human, even though they may be flawed.” No shame in making money, right? Earlier in the same parliamentary “debate” politicians from opposition parties had described the devastating cost of sanctions and war suffered by the people of Iraq. As Ireland’s favourite American politician once put it though, “it’s the economy, stupid”.
PEACE MOVEMENT DIVERSITY AND GROWTH
The peace movement in Ireland has grown in numbers and confidence since Autumn 2001 when the international crimes of 11 September were used as a pretext for American crimes against people in Afghanistan. The Indymedia Ireland website (www.indymedia.ie) chronicles the anti-war demonstrations and vigils, talks and marches as they grew in number and diversity around the country and Northern Ireland. Meanwhile people were also writing letters personally to the police, to the government, to the airport management, and to the US Embassy calling for a stop to their lawlessness and violence. The authorities and guardians of the peace just continued business as usual though. By September 2002 I had to launch a High Court action against the State for assisting America’s attack on Afghanistan. The hearing is finally expected to be in late March.
FROM PROTEST TO RESISTANCE
They’re fighting for “full spectrum dominance” and they are doing so with great fervour; our half-hearted protests alone won’t cut it. Four days before I took my case to the High Court I spray-painted a US Air Force “Hercules” warplane at Shannon Airport in a symbolic act of disarmament. In December I had a wonderful trial hearing, including legal arguments which my lawyer and I stitched together with help from experts in International humanitarian law, and deeply human testimony from an Iraqi doctor about the horrific effects of depleted uranium on children.
I have lodged an appeal against the “guilty” verdict I received on 13 February in Shannon District Court for this action, when the trial hearing resumed. Peace campaigner and mother of four, Mary Kelly was also there for a pre-trial formality about a fence-climbing charge against her from a Shannon Airport demonstration in August (small cheese compared to her disarmament action with an axe on a US Navy aircraft in January). Five members of the anarchist-pacifist Catholic Worker movement in Ireland (Deirdre Clancy, Karen Fallon, Damien Moran, Nuin Dunlop and Ciaron O’Reilly) are currently on remand in prison following their faith-based “ploughshares” disarmament action at Shannon Airport on 03 February.
Ploughshares acts of nonviolent disarmament were initiated by radical priests Fr. Philip and Daniel Berrigan in the U.S. in the 1980s. These nonviolent actions have addressed nuclear and conventional weapon systems by enfleshing the prophesy of Isaiah Ch. 2. Some activists have been acquitted of all charges, others have received prison sentences of up to 18 years. (See http://www.plowsharesactions.org/ ).
“What put the issue of Irish complicity in this U.S. war on the front burner,” writes Ciaron O’Reilly from Limerick prison in his open letter ‘From protest to resistance’, “was largely a number of solo efforts (Tim [Hourigan]‘s plane-spotting, Eoin’s one man/one spray can/one [lawyer] engagement of a Hercules and an Irish High Court, Mary’s spontaneous disarmament of a U.S. navy plane) and a couple of fragile collective efforts (the 4-week Shannon Peace Camp and us the “Pit Stop Ploughshares” lightening striking twice on the very same/recently repaired/security guaranteed U.S. navy plane).”
People will continue to resist the war through creative and nonviolent means. I hope that ever more people will begin engaging directly themselves to stop the murderous business as usual at Shannon Airport and in the houses of power elsewhere in Ireland.