US DU Shipments Breach Ireland’s Neutral Status Feb 2006
Jim Massey, a former marine platoon sergeant in the US army, said he had used the controversial ammunition while on duty in Iraq.
"I know for a fact that ammunition has been brought through Shannon airport," he told the Daily Ireland newspaper this week.
Mr Massey was in Ireland speaking at a series of anti-war meetings. If true, Mr Massey's claims will be shocking for the Irish government, which has said that US military aircraft would not be given permission to land at Shannon Airport, if they were carrying depleted uranium ammunition.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said that they had contacted the US Embassy about Mr Massey’s allegations: "Mr Massey’s claim is not supported by the government’s records on the transit of munitions of war."
"The permission of the Minister for Transport, in the case of civilian aircraft, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the case of foreign military aircraft, is required to transport munitions of war through Irish territory.
"The records of both departments show that, contrary to Mr Massey’s claim, there were no applications for the transport of depleted uranium munitions throughout the period of the Iraq war. The US Embassy has been contacted in relation to this matter and has confirmed that its records support this."
Mr Massey is a founding member of Iraq Veterans against the War. He was a platoon sergeant in the 7th Marines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The newspaper Daily Ireland obtained a written answer from the former Minister for Foreign Affairs and current Minister for Finance Brian Cowen, given to a question on the issue of depleted uranium raised in 2004 in the Dáil – the Irish Parliament.
"Under the terms of the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952, foreign military aircraft are normally granted permission by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to land at Shannon Airport on condition that the aircraft meet the policy stipulations that it is unarmed and not carrying arms, ammunition or explosives. This would preclude the carrying of depleted uranium munitions," said Mr Cowen.
Meanwhile, the Irish Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea said that he is calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Aherne, to discuss this issue in more detail at a cabinet meeting.
"I believe this issue will be discussed in the Cabinet in the not too distant future. But it really is an issue for the Department of Foreign Affairs. Condeleeza Rice has assured us that this is not going on, but that pertained to the issue of terror suspects being transported though Shannon. The issue of transporting depleted uranium ammunition is a whole new allegation and needs to be investigated in more detail," he said.
He agreed that people do have a right to be fearful however if these claims are true.
Minister O'Dea also recently indicated that there may be a case now for allowing inspections of US aircraft using Shannon airport.
Tim Hourigan, a local anti-war activist who monitors US military use of Shannon told the Daily Ireland newspaper that: "Shannon Airport, is a major hub for CIA torture jets, US military personnel and cargo."
He also said that the troops through Shannon are constantly increasing, with an estimated 300,000 US troops passing through Shannon airport in 2005.
"Although the troops represent only six per cent of passenger figures, 95 per cent of the security costs are from the military flights, many of which are subsidised by the Irish government. They have their own gate at the airport - Gate 42- which is reserved for the military, and it has had special fences and guard cabins erected, and regularly has armed gardai stationed there, as well as a recently installed hi-tech 'invisible motion barrier'," said Mr Hourigan.