BBC: Green, damp and tranquil, the west coast of Ireland is not somewhere you would expect to find American soldiers in desert uniform. But flying through Shannon airport in County Clare over Christmas, I found the departure lounge crowded with GIs. Most were sipping coffee, some sampled the Guinness.
Neutrality: The state or policy of being neutral, especially nonparticipation in war, except when it suits us, or we can make some dollars out of it. What’s the current exchange rate, lads?
The airport authorities are coy.
“We don’t reveal the commercial value of this business,” says external relations manager Eugene Pratt.
“But you can take it that it is substantial when aeronautical charges, in-flight catering, ground handling, duty free and ground catering sales, as well as fuel sales are tallied.”
The Irish Examiner has come up with a figure.
It says Shannon has received more than 27m euros ($32.5m; Â£18.6m) from the US government in 2005 alone.
That is useful revenue for an airport with a total turnover of only 95m euros last year.
BBC: US soldiers boost Irish airport sales »
The Americans government, of course, have us over a barrel, are shagging us sensless and having been doing so for some time – three years ago, our wonderful Taoiseach – the illustrious Bertie Ahern – said that:
“he was not prepared to withdraw access to the airport which had existed since 1955. That, he said, would be a hostile act. There was clear legal support for the view that providing landing and ancillary facilities does not mean actively engaging or participating in a war. The Taoiseach also denied that there had been any pressure applied by President Bush on the Shannon issue.”
RTE: Taoiseach defends Shannon use »
So, we’re to presume that the bold Bertie thinks that if we tell the american military to fuck off and stop landing in Shannon, they’ll carpet bomb us? Or that he’s happy to take the money to keep Shannon ‘profitable’? Maybe he’s afraid of souring US-Irish relations, leading to a drop in tourism and US investment.
Irish Anti-War Movement »
Pitstop Ploughshares »
UPDATE: According to The Irish Times of Friday Jan 6th 2005, 330,000 American troops passed through Shannon in 2005. That’s about 900 a day.