Munitions were brought through Shannon Airport on almost 1,200 planes last year, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has confirmed.
Permission to carry munitions or dangerous goods on civilian aircraft through Ireland or Irish airspace must be sought from the Department of Transport.
Responding to parliamentary questions in the Dail (Parliament) from Sinn Fein TD (member of Parliament) Padraig Mac Lochlainn, Varadkar confirmed that most of the requests to his department were made by U.S. civil airlines.
Omni Air International operates up to four flights a day carrying U.S. troops through Shannon Airport, mostly going to and from Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan.
Varadkar also said “under 250,000” U.S. troops transited Shannon last year, although he failed to confirm the exact total.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Alan Shatter has confirmed that the cost of Garda (police) protection for U.S. aircraft at Shannon Airport for 2011 was almost € 1 million, while the total cost of assistance provided by the Defense Forces to the Gardai at Shannon for the year was € 259,739.
Both Kuwait and Kyrgysztan have large U.S. military bases.
Shannonwatch, which monitors foreign military use of Shannon Airport, said the bases in Kuwait were the staging posts for the two invasions of Iraq and the occupation of it since 2003, while the Manas “transit center” in Kyrgysztan has been a crucial supply hub for the U.S. war in Afghanistan since 2001.
A Shannonwatch spokesperson said, “Like Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan, Ireland and Shannon have now become staging posts for US invasions and occupation. The figures make a mockery of the notion of Irish neutrality, and show that successive governments have relinquished all interest in maintaining an independent Irish foreign policy.”
The Shannonwatch spokesperson added, “Local media reports suggesting that the troop business will continue at Shannon have unfortunately been borne out so far in 2012.
“Minister Varadkar has said it is not possible to anticipate how many munitions requests will be made over the next year, or even to say what the expected use of Shannon Airport by the U.S. military will be. This shows how insecure the war business is for the airport and the region. And it leaves Irish people in the dark over their involvement in current and future acts of war.
“The Irish people should be made fully aware of the extent to which their neutrality and their support for peace and human rights is being undermined.”