Irish Echo

This story appeared in the issue of May 26-June 1, 2004

By Ray O'Hanlon

Several Dáil members, led by all five members of Sinn Fein, are
urging the Irish government to end landing and overflight rights for
U.S. troop-carrying planes bound for Iraq.

In a statement, the Dáil's Sinn Féin group submitted a motion calling
on the Irish government to "immediately" suspend the privileges
accorded U.S. forces.

The five TDs also urged Irish people to openly register their
opposition to the upcoming visit to Ireland by President Bush.

Caoimghín O Caoláin, the Sinn Féin party leader in the Dáil, said
that he believed that the majority of people in the U.S. shared Sinn
Féin's concerns over the nature and direction of the war in Iraq.

"This is not an anti-American motion; such an idea couldn't be
further from the truth," O Caoláin, a TD from Cavan-Monaghan, said
this week. "But we are very much opposed to the [Bush]
administration's policies in Iraq and the middle East and many in the
U.S. would share these views."

The Sinn Féin motion accuses the Irish government of "assisting"
hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to participate in "the illegal
invasion and occupation of Iraq," a venture that had "resulted in
tens of thousands of deaths, including the killing of approximately
10,000 civilians and nearly 900 occupation troops, including
approximately 800 American soldiers."

The motion stated that Irish assistance in the war had contributed to
a situation where "thousands of people, including children, are being
injured or killed by exploding cluster bombs."

The motion expressed "anger" at the cost of the war to date,
including an estimated expenditure of over $100 billion by the U.S.
alone. This money, the motion argued, could have been better spent in
the war on global poverty, hunger and disease.

The motion criticized what it described as "the torture and killing
of Iraqi prisoners of war by U.S. and British occupation troops." It
called for the immediate suspension of overflight and landing
privileges to military and civilian chartered aircraft conveying U.S.
troops to Iraq.

The motion urged the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government
to "spare no effort" as part of Ireland's EU presidency and as a
sovereign state to ensure a speedy end to the occupation of Iraq "by
the so-called Coalition of the Willing."

And it called on Irish people to "peacefully register their
opposition to the occupation of Iraq and to Irish "collusion" in that
occupation during the Bush visit to Ireland next month.

Sinn Féin TDs have not been alone in criticizing the government over
the use of Shannon by the U.S. military. The government's position
was described as "morally bankrupt" by Green Party TD John Gormley.

In addition, the Irish Times reported that Dr. Jerry Cowley, an
independent TD from Mayo, as wondering how President Bush slept at

During his June 25-26 visit, President Bush is unlikely to hear much
of such criticism at firsthand. Security plans call for keeping
protestors well away from the presidential party which will be
confining its business to talks with EU leaders led by the taoiseach,
Bertie Ahern.

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