2 September 2013, Final Draft
At about 3.45 pm on Sunday September 1st peace activists Margaretta Darcy and Niall Farrell were arrested in Shannon airport in the vicinity of the main runway. They were taken to Shannon Garda station where they were questioned and detained overnight. They were then brought before Limerick District Court at on 2nd September 2013 with Judge Eugene O’Kelly presiding. About 45 minutes after the arrests of Darcy and Farrell two other individuals, including photo-journalist and human rights activist Tommy Donnellan, were arrested several miles from the scene of the airport incursion. Tommy and his friend were later released without charge.
In a statement the Galway Alliance Against War said it wanted to highlight the use of the airport by the US.
"By allowing the US military to use Irish airspace and Shannon airport to wage wars we have become a willing accessory to mass murder. We have blood on our hands," the group said.
D'Arcy and Farrell have been charged over a similar protest at Shannon on 7th October 2012n when the perimeter fence was breached and an incursion made on to the runway.
They are due in court on the 11 September 2013 over the previous incident.
This is just one of very many incidents where peace activists have been arrested and subsequently prosecuted at Shannon airport while they were attempting to expose very serious crimes of torture, extraordinary rendition and crimes against humanity that have been facilitated at Shannon airport since 2001. No one has been arrested, charged or even investigated or questioned by Gardaí in connection with these most serious human rights abuses, or in connection with the facilitation of these crimes. Yet a large number of peace activists have been arrested and brought before the courts on spurious charges, most of which have been subsequently dismissed, most notably the five Catholic Workers who were acquitted by a Jury in Dublin, and Mary Kelly who was acquitted by the appeals court.
Surely its time the real criminals were brought to justice and that US military and CIA use of Shannon airport was prohibited.
When Niall Farrell was brought before the court Judge O’Kelly asked him if he wished to have a solicitor appointed to represent him, but Niall Farrell declined the offer and said he wished to represent himself. When Inspector Kennedy stated that Mr Farrell was arrested on the runway, Niall Farrell asked if there was proof that he was on the runway. Judge Kelly then intervened and said this hearing was primarily about a bail application and the main issues would be debated at a later hearing. When Inspector Kennedy referred to the seriousness of this matter, Niall Farrell stated that “all I want is peace” and their action was a statement about society and the issue should be the war machine and US military use of Shannon airport. Judge Kelly objected to political statements being made in court. Inspector Kennedy referred to the dangers of this incident and the issues of safety of the protestors themselves and the safety of airport staff and dangers to flights and air passengers. He said that all movements within the airfield were strictly controlled by Air Traffic Control. Niall Farrell and Margaretta Darcy had entered the airfield wearing orange boiler suits and carrying signs relating to the war in Syria. Photos had been taken by others of the incident and these photos were immediately published on the internet.
Judge O’Kelly asked if Niall Farrell was given bail for the incident last year and Inspector Kennedy said that the issue of bail did not arise on the previous occasion. Judge O’Kelly asked what were the penalties for this offense and Inspector Kennedy replied that the penalties carried a maximum of three years on indictment. Niall Farrell asked what about the other dangers arising from the US warplanes using Shannon, but Judge O’Kelly again ruled such matters out of order. Niall Farrell explained that the incident took place during a quiet window when no planes were landing, and Inspector Kennedy agreed that no aircraft were delayed on this occasion because of the incident, but he also explained (after being prompted by Judge O’Kelly) that Shannon airport was an emergency airport for all flights in the Western Europe region of the Atlantic and that aircraft could arrive unexpectedly at short notice. Niall Farrell asked if he was more of a danger than the military aircraft.
Judge asked Niall Farrell if he was prepared to give a written sworn undertaking not to trespass onto the airside area of Shannon airport between now and the completion of this case. Inspector Kennedy said that the Gardai also wanted the defendants to be prohibited from going anywhere near Shannon airport during this period. Judge O’Kelly did not agree with this and limited the bail undertakings to an undertaking not to trespass onto the airside area of Shannon airport between now and the completion of this case. After some discussion Niall Farrell agree to this undertaking. Judge O’Kelly then granted bail on their own recognisance of €1,000.
A similar but shorter “conversation” took place when Margaretta Darcy was brought before the court. There was a sharp exchange of views between Judge O’Kelly and Margaretta Darcy when the Judge tried to silence her when he claimed that her comments were “political”. "How can you try to depoliticise a political action" she asked him. The Judge threatened to have her removed from the court and held in contempt of court if she persisted in making political comments and a number of Gardai moved towards her at one point as if to remove her from court. Clearly the US military and CIA use of Shannon airport is a very political act, as well of course as being in breach of international laws, and involving the Irish Government, the Gardai and the airport authorities in being complicit with war crimes. The Judge seemed determined to silence this aspect of the case and if this behaviour by judges in this case continues, then the judges can be accused of failing to allow all the facts and factors in the case to be heard before the court, particularly the factor of the reasons and justification for the actions taken by Margaretta Darcy and Niall Farrell. Their actions were clearly taken in order to expose and try and prevent the far greater evil and crimes involved in US military and CIA use of Shannon airport. If they are denied the opportunity to explain this to the court, then a mistrial will have taken place. Eventually Margaretta Darcy also agree to the bail condition to give a written sworn undertaking not to trespass onto the airside area of Shannon airport between now and the completion of this case and both defendants were released on bail.
Shortly after this Niall Farrell got into a friendly conversation with one the Gardai during which Niall was complementing the hospitality of the Gardai at Shannon Garda Station during their overnight stay. It would then appear that Niall Farrell jokingly made what may have been an inappropriate remark to the Garda, as a result of which Niall was then arrested on the suspicion that he had made a threatening remark to the Garda. After a few hours questioning at Shannon Garda Station, Niall Farrell was released without charge on this last incident.
Both Niall Farrell and Margaretta were remanded in bail to appear at Ennis District Court on 11 September 2013.
The separate arrest of Tommy Donnellan and his colleague, who had recorded the presence of Margaretta Darcy and Niall Farrell during their protest, is of serious concern especially the alleged unduly rough manner of the arrest in which some photographic equipment may have been damaged and some alleged abusive comments made by one of the detectives concerning one of the protesters. The Gardai also impounded the photographic equipment, mobile phones, laptop computer, car and other equipment belonging to Tommy Donnellan and his friend, and told them they will be holding all these items for a period of at least 4 days.
The behaviour of the Gardai in all these matters is in marked contrast with the complete failure to search or investigate any of the US military and CIA aircraft that have transited through Shannon airport or to arrest any of the US war criminals that are known to have transited through Shannon. There also have been no arrests or Garda investigations into those Irish citizens, Irish Government officials, and Gardai who may have been complicit in the war crimes and acts of torture committed by US troops and US government agents who travelled through Shannon airport.
It is worth noting that Margaretta and Niall were both given bail on condition that they do not access the runway again until after both their cases are heard. The state is accusing them of having interfered with the "proper" use of the runway. Margaretta and Niall argue that they went on the runway to highlight the "improper" use of a civilian airport by the US military. President Higgins has called for "conversations" in public places about Irish society, GAAW wishes to hold the conversation about Ireland's role in foreign relations, on war and peace in the court. By agreeing this limited bail condition, the court appears to be accepting that the state has a case to answer over the misuse of Shannon airport by the US military and CIA associated aircraft. D'Arcy and Farrell informed the court (and the Gardai beforehand) that they would not accept any further limitation of the bail i.e. to include an exclusion order from Shannon as a whole. Their view was plain: if the US war machine can be in Shannon then so can peace activists who wish to protest peacefully against such misuse of the airport.