When the invasion of Iraq was being planned, the US government needed bases to refuel and load planes full of troops en route to its bases in Qatar and Kuwait. They picked Shannon Airport in County Clare, Ireland. And, despite its much-vaunted neutrality, the Irish government was more than willing to help.
According to recent calculations, approximately 50,000 soldiers have passed through Shannon Airport on their way to fight the war in Iraq, never mind the weapons, which reportedly include components of Patriot and Tomahawk missiles.
This “violation” of Irish neutrality could not be left unanswered: on 3 February 2003, five Ploughshares activists took action at Shannon. They were Karen Fallon, Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Ciaron O'Reilly and Damien Moran, members of the Catholic Worker Movement. During their action the five constructed a shrine on the runway to Iraqi children killed and threatened by US and British bombardment, consisting of copies of the Bible and Koran, rosaries and Muslim prayer beads, flowers, photographs of Iraqi children and Brigid’s crosses. After painting “Pit-stop of Death” on the hangar's door, they then picked a recently repaired US navy C40 plane in a hangar and disabled it. They were discovered and arrested by the Garda.
Time for reckoning
More than two years since their action the five have finally been given a trial date. They are due to appear on 7 March 2005 at Dublin’s Four Courts. They face two charges of criminal damage, carrying a maximum, though unlikely, ten-year sentence. The trial is expected to last two weeks. Coincidentally, the C40 plane that Pit Stop Ploughshares visited was the same one that fellow Irish activist Mary Kelly took a hammer to just a few days earlier. On 1 December 2004, after many adjournments and a retrial, Limerick Circuit Court found her guilty and gave her a two-year suspended sentence.