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The Irish State nominally rules over the 26-Counties land territory and its corresponding sea and airspace. Yet these have been and are repeatedly violated by the US and UK military with Irish ruling class secret collusion.
Now a Senator in Leinster House is seeking a hearing in the High Court to have the behaviour of successive Irish Governments in allowing UK military overflights declared unconstitutional.
The Sea, oh the sea … and the air!
As stipulated by international law, a sovereign state’s area includes the sea up to 12-miles from its border1 and therefore Ireland has a 12 mile territorial sea, a 200 mile exclusive economic zone before any additional claims are made to the continental shelf including the Rockall Bank.2
According to media report, a comprehensive survey of the Irish State’s territorial waters was not undertaken until 2014, i.e nearly a century after its foundation, which in itself is an indictment of an allegedly independent island state.
According to The Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) says potential territorial waters stretch to 898,442km sq – an area bigger than the oil rich North Sea.3
Through the decades when Ireland was a fishing nation and fresh fish was eaten weekly in most homes, Irish fishing boats had to compete with those from many other states fishing illegally inside Irish sea limits.
The Irish Navy was the only policing enforcement agency and through much of that time it had only three corvettes to patrol 12 miles out from the whole coastline of the Irish state. Subsequent EU legislation then left Irish seas more open to foreign-based fishing than it did to Irish boats.
The sovereign air space of a state corresponds to that over its land and 12-miles out to sea from its coastline.4
The use of Shannon airport by the US military in transit of troops, weapons and prisoners has long been known and protested.
Shannon Airport protests
Over the years there have been many highly-publicised protests over the US military use of Shannon, ranging from mass protests outside the airport buildings to deliberate trespass and even damage to a US warplane.
The response from the Government Minister to questions in Leinster House is always that the US is not violating Irish sovereignty, arms, military and prisoners are not being transported through there – because the US authorities have assured the Irish Government that they are not.
In February 2003 five members of the Catholic Workers’ Movement under the name Pitstop Ploughshares gained access to a hanger in Shannon Airport and damaged a USAF warplane there. They were Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Karen Fallon, Ciaron O’Reilly and Damien Moran.
They were jailed for up to 11 weeks awaiting committal for trial to which they were finally sent in Dublin Circuit Court in March and October 2005 on two counts of criminal damage, €100 and US $2.5 million. The faced a maximum 10 years if convicted.
Two aborted trials followed as one judge after another revealed their bias and partiality. In July 2006 after twelve days a mixed male and female jury acquitted the accused on all charges on the grounds that they had taken the action to save lives in Iraq and were justified in doing so.
In October 2012 dramatist, writer, former Republican prisoners and veteran activist Margaretta D’Arcy was arrested with Niall Farrell for scaling the fence and entering the grounds of Shannon Airport.
In June 2014 at the age of 80 and suffering from Parkinson’s disease D’Arcy was jailed for two weeks in Limerick Prison for refusal to pay the fine and remained defiant.
In July 2014 then members of the Irish Parliament Clare Daly and Mick Wallace5 used a rope ladder to climb over a perimeter fence and enter the grounds of Shannon Airport and made no attempt to avoid arrest.
They were both fined by a court for trespass in February 2015 and refused to pay the fine, eventually being taken to Limerick jail by Gardaí in December 2015 and released less than two hours later.
On 25 April 2017 anti-war activists Edward Horgan, a retired Irish soldier of 78, and civil servant Dan Dowling, 39, were arrested in the airport grounds and charged with criminal trespass and malicious damage (felt-tip graffiti slogan on a warplane).
In a very low-level publicity case in January this year (2023), a jury in Dublin found both guilty of trespass but not of criminal damage at the airport and were ordered to pay €5,000 each to a women’s refuge in Co Clare.
On St. Patrick’s Day 2019 two ex-USA military Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff, now anti-war campaigners of the US chapter of Veterans for Peace, cut a hole in the airport’s perimeter fence, entered Shannon airfield with a banner and were arrested.
In May last year, a majority jury verdict found Mayers (85) and Kauff (80) guilty of interfering with the running of the airport but unanimously not of criminal damage to an airport perimeter fence and of trespassing the airport with the intent to commit an offence or interfere with property.
The judge fined the anti-war activists 5,000 euro each. Both had spent 11 weeks in prison and had been required to spend nine months in Ireland awaiting trial, despite clear indications that they had no intention of absconding and indeed were looking forward to the trial to publicise the issue.
Senator Craughwell’s case to the High Court.
Less well-known is that successive Irish governments have for decades by secret agreement permitted permitted UK air force planes to fly over Irish airspace and to interdict, i.e. force or shoot down other aircraft. This is what has led to Senator Craughwell’s taking a case to the High Court.
The Independent Senator maintains that although not the case of a formal military alliance, granting permission to fly over Irish State airspace, unless validated by referendum, is a violation of Ireland’s neutrality and sovereignty and is seeking a number of declarations from the Court.
Craughwell, who is a former member of the Irish Defence Forces and the British Army, as well as being an ex-President of the Teachers Union of Ireland, said that his belief in the existence of a secret agreement is based on a reply from then Taoiseach Brian Cowen to Enda Kenny in 2005.
The Senator seeks High Court declarations including that the agreement between Ireland and the UK allowing armed British military aircraft to intercept aircraft over Irish airspace amounts to an impermissible dilution and breach of Articles 1, 5, 6, 13, 15, and 28 of the Irish Constitution.
He also seeks a declaration that the Government’s failure to exercise control over Ireland’s territorial waters, airspace and exclusive economic zone breaches Article 5 of the Constitution which declares that Ireland is a sovereign independent democratic state.
Craughwell further seeks an order restraining the government from bringing in legislation to give effect to the agreement, unless it has been passed by a referendum.
Irish State Neutral?
Most Irish people mistakenly believe that Ireland’s military neutrality is specifically enshrined in Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Irish Constitution. However Article 29, section 4, subsection 9° underlines the neutrality of the Irish State in respect of a military force of the EU:
The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union where that common defence would include the State.6
“This was originally inserted by the 2002 amendment ratifying the Treaty of Nice and updated by the 2009 amendment ratifying the Treaty of Lisbon. An earlier bill intended to ratify the Treaty of Nice did not include a common defence opt-out, and was rejected in the first Nice referendum, in 2001.”7
It is fairly clear that the citizens of the Irish state are generally in favour of retaining Irish neutrality but there are elements within the state frequently trying to undermine that policy, chiefly the native Gombeen ruling class.
The Irish State has never been truly independent; it came into existence agreeing to the partition of the nation and in waging war against the forces of national liberation, during which it executed more Irish Republicans than the British had during the War of Independence.
Subsequently, the Irish State has been characterised as neo-colonialist, dominated firstly by British capital, then by the US and finally by the EU.
There are elements within Irish upper circles who long to join the EU military and political club while some others share a nostalgia for the British Empire and Commonwealth and the kind of supporting and sharing role to which John Redmond and his Irish Nationalist Party aspired.
Finally, there are of course elements in the Irish armed forces that are attracted by career advancement through joint military operations with other armed forces along with greater weaponry, such as would be available in a joint European armed force or as part of NATO.
Worryingly, Mícheál Martin during questions in Leinster House some months ago denied that the population would have to be consulted in referendum before the State could join some military alliance.
Whatever formal position the State may take on neutrality in future, it has been undermining it for decades and doing so in secret.
Why the secrecy? Presumably because the ruling class is aware that most Irish people want to remain militarily neutral and would wish to get rid of a government that was trying to ditch the neutrality policy.
Ireland needs to be independent of all imperialist alliances. Should the Gombeen ruling class succeed in committing the State’s armed forces to some military alliance, the choice is certain to be either imperialist NATO or imperialist EU.
In the latter case, it is entirely possible that Irish troops would be sent to suppress social or national risings in Europe – for example in Catalunya or the Basque Country, with Spanish troops being sent to quell mass protests in Ireland.
Or in either case, that Irish troops would become part of some joint imperialist force in Latin America, Africa or Asia.
Meanwhile the Gombeens, because of the State’s allowing US and UK military aircraft over Irish skies and in Shannon airport, are potentially painting a target for retribution on to the Irish population.
1Except obviously where it intersects with another state’s borders (see Airspace – Wikipedia)
2Ireland’s territorial waters to be remeasured down to the centimetre – Irish Mirror Online
4Airspace – Wikipedia and obviously this currently ends at the borders of the Six County colony, whose own 12-mile UK zone also ends where it meets the Irish borders on land, sea and air.
5Now both Members of the European Parliament.
Irish State’s territorial waters: Ireland’s territorial waters to be remeasured down to the centimetre – Irish Mirror Online
Irish State’s territorial airspace: Airspace – Wikipedia
Issue publicised in 2021 with reference back to document in 2016: https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/secret-defence-pact-allowing-raf-jets-inirish-airspace-undermines-our-neutrality-says-td-berry-40526069.html
Current High Court challenge: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/senator-seeks-challenge-over-british-military-being-able-to-intercept-aircraft-in-irish-airspace-1438222.html