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Issue #1486      26 January 2011


Irish government knew they were in violation of torture conventions

Slowly but surely the entire shameful truth is coming out about Shannon airport, CIA renditions, and the lengths the Irish government went to avoid the evidence. One of the first Dublin embassy cables from WikiLeaks confirmed that the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern knew about the CIA’s use of Shannon for its renditions. The latest Dublin cable shows that they knew this meant they were in violation of torture conventions. Yet they did nothing to uphold their legal and moral responsibilities, preferring instead to avoid political difficulty.

Dermot Ahern – Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ireland.

According to a cable released by WikiLeaks on January 14, an unnamed individual who met with the US embassy’s deputy chief of mission (DCM) in Dublin told the embassy -

“Were a plane to include Shannon in an itinerary that also included transporting prisoners, GOI [government of Ireland] lawyers might be forced to conclude that the GOI itself was in violation of torture conventions”.

So an Irish government minister was quite convinced that at least three flights involving renditions had refuelled at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions. The government’s lawyers were telling them they were likely to be in violation of the legally binding Convention Against Torture. But what did our government do? They vehemently denied any involvement of Shannon in the CIA’s renditions program, and they went to the US embassy to make sure they were not found out. Or as the cable puts it, their main concern was that what they were saying would not be found “to have holes in it”.

The person quoted in the cable who seemed to be speaking on behalf of the Irish government also said that there would be enormous political pressure on the government if it was discovered that the US were taking prisoners through Shannon.

It is shameful that the Irish government would put diplomatic relations with the US and their own political survival over the rule of law and the lives of people who were being kidnapped and tortured. They repeatedly asked for evidence, despite being presented with it by activists at Shannon and organisations like Amnesty International. Yet the Gardai (police force) steadfastly refused to inspect suspect planes at Shannon. On one occasion a Garda (officer) even cited a “policy decision” not to inspect a plane when it was formally brought to his attention.

This policy decision is consistent with the policy of ministers at the highest level of the Irish government.

Meanwhile it is encouraging to note that the painstaking research and campaigning by a few activists at Shannon over the past decade has had some impact. “Parliamentarians [in Ireland] draw on allegations from journalists, activists’ websites and tail spotters to suggest the US government has used Shannon for nefarious purposes” according to the US embassy cable. Giving the lengths that the Irish governments have gone to in order to avoid investigating CIA and US military flights through Shannon it is not surprising that the “allegations” are not dismissed. They have been putting the government under pressure to stop telling lies and to end their complicity in human rights abuse.

It must surely make John Gormley, leader of the Green Party, and minister in the current government quite uncomfortable. In February 2007 he said: “There is no way Dermot Ahern is going to spin his way out of this. The government’s reliance on diplomatic assurances from the US instead of active inspections is a farce”.

He is now part of the farce.

Finally it is disappointing to note that the mainstream media in Ireland has once again avoided any coverage of the WikiLeaks cables that might embarrass the Irish government and the US. It therefore falls to the likes of this Shannonwatch website to inform the public about one of the greatest shames of Ireland’s recent history, its involvement in international kidnapping, “disappearances” and torture.


Next article – Baby Doc’s strange return to Haiti

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