Even though Ireland remains officially a neutral state, military landings at Shannon Airport in County Clare have nearly tripled in 2004.
The bulk of these landings are US troops travelling in and out of occupied Iraq. It is estimated that a quarter of the US soldiers currently posted in Iraq have travelled via Shannon. In order to allow the US military use of the airport, the government often turned a blind eye to the military presence. It is not known what the contents or quantities of military cargo that have travelled via Ireland because Irish authorities often opt not to inspect any of the cargo of planes carrying weapons, ammunitions, or military vehicles.
On a more sinister note, the Irish authorities are making it easier for the military to use the airport. They have significantly altered the laws to allow uniformed troops to travel about within County Clare.
In contrast, people convicted of nonviolent direct action at Shannon Airport have been handed heavy penalties which include being banned from the entire County Clare for up to two years!
In early February 2003, Mary Kelly smashed the nose cone of a US military aircraft at Shannon. She was not found guilty at her first trial, so the Irish state sought a retrial. For the re-trial, the defence was not allowed to use a “lawful excuse” argument presented at the previous trial, and no mention of the invasion of Iraq was allowed.
Unsurprising, these conditions made the trial difficult for Mary Kelly to win and, on 28 October, she was found guilty. Sentencing was postponed until 1 December in order to give Kelly more time to consult her legal team.
Irish activists were due to return to Shannon for a demonstration on 13 November - part of the ongoing campaign over Irish neutrality.