No to Shannon Airport facilitating Israeli war crimes – trade unions must act!

By Stefanie Di Croce

On 19 November, Taoiseach Leo Varadker asserted that the US military is not using Shannon Airport to supply munitions to the Israeli state’s assault on Gaza, “or any war for that matter”. His certainty is based on the need for “express permissions” to be “signed off by the Department of Transport” to transport weapons. 

In fact, 51,000 US troops have passed through Shannon through mid-November and the highest number of civil aircraft munitions exemptions since 2016 were granted by the Department of Transport in October. Despite Varadker’s supposed confidence, none of these exemptions were inspected at Shannon Airport.

Government refuses to inspect warplanes 

According to a Department of Transport spokesperson, “While the orders do provide for the inspection of a civil aircraft to ensure compliance, it is only whenever it appears that a flight would be in contravention of them. There is no provision for such an inspection without this prerequisite”. Minister of State Jack Chambers stated on 16 November that “insofar as it can be determined, there is no record of an inspection of a civil aircraft having been carried out pursuant to these Orders”.

The use of Shannon Airport as a centre of US military operations has long been documented and protested with no movement from the government. Governments involving Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Greens and Labour have allowed the airport to be used as a stop-off point for US imperialism’s murderous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three million US soldiers have gone through Shannon since 2003. 

In the face of the unfolding genocide in Gaza, the increased use of the airport, increase of munitions exemptions, and refusal to check cargo is especially grotesque. As late as July of this year, US aircraft may have carried cluster bombs through Shannon Airport without inspection, possibly putting the Irish state in direct violation of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munition. Despite strong but empty words, the refusal to inspect flights demonstrates the Irish state’s complicity through self-imposed ignorance.

Looking the other way in the face of genocide 

At a time when the Biden administration has shown a willingness to spread fabrications to justify its unwavering material support for the Israeli State’s assault on Gaza, it is at best a dereliction of duty and, at worst, possible complicity in war crimes to take the word of the US state when granting record numbers of munitions exemptions through Shannon Airport. As no inspections have been carried out, the Taoiseach and the Department of Transport’s statements are unquestioningly repeating the US line regarding possible aid to the ongoing massacre against the Palestinian people. 

On 17 October, Palestinian trade unions put out a call to international trade unions to halt the manufacture, infrastructural support, and transport of arms and military aid to Israel. Trade unions in Belgium representing transport workers answered that call, refusing to handle munitions shipments to Israel. On 16 November, the General Labour Federation of Belgium demanded concrete action to end lax “rushed permits” and “minimal checks” of cargo shipments and demanded an immediate ceasefire. Unions around the world are refusing to handle munitions trade to Israel, including trade unions representing dock workers in Catalonia, and transport unions in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Shannon’s role in directly assisting the US military urgently demands a similar and immediate trade union response representing workers in the airport. 

Workers action is crucial 

With the US state’s increased financial and military aid to Israel, and in light of the Irish government’s refusal to perform checks on US military flights, workers are being deliberately kept in the dark as to the possible complicity of the Irish state in aiding the genocide in Gaza. Trade unions must take action to defend the lives of Palestinian people and defend the agency of the workers they represent. 

If the state refuses to carry out checks on US military planes, they need to answer the call of Palestinian trade unions and support Shannon Airport workers in refusing to handle all cargo and goods from US military warplanes. Workers’ power and strike action are critical to ending any form of complicity in the Israeli State’s atrocities in Gaza. Crucially, such action can end the use of Shannon as a warport for US imperialism altogether.

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