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Cablegate: Shannon: Goi Under Pressure but No Change in Policy

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

S E C R E T DUBLIN 001739

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/01/2014
TAGS: MOPS PINR PREL
SUBJECT: SHANNON: GOI UNDER PRESSURE BUT NO CHANGE IN POLICY

Classified By: DCM JONATHAN BENTON FOR REASONS 1.4 B AND D

1. (S) DCM met with XXXXXXXXXXXX issues surrounding U.S. use of Shannon airport. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that while there always has been an element of Irish society that objects to the U.S. military’s use of Shannon, the government feels increasingly under pressure. On a weekly basis, members of parliament question the ministers. While most of the criticism and pressure come from the opposition, the president of the Senate, from the PM’s own party, also has entered the fray periodically. Parliamentarians draw on allegations from journalists, activists’ web sites and tail spotters to suggest the USG has used Shannon for nefarious purposes. Particularly difficult have been questions in the last two weeks about a Gulfstream jet that allegedly has been used to transport prisoners and allegedly had its tail number changed. XXXXXXXXXXXX cited this allegation as both politically and legally difficult for the GOI. The political problem is that the government’s defense of Shannon rests heavily on friendship with the U.S. and the Irish government saying it relies on the “good faith” of the USG. He said the allegations that the tail number has been changed raise suspicions and caused confusion within the GOI, along with the hope that there is a “benign” explanation about why the tail number was changed. He cautioned that if it were ever to be discovered that the U.S. was not good on its word or had transported prisoners through Shannon in the context of the war on terrorism, there would be enormous political pressure on the government. As for the legal issue, he said that were a plane to include Shannon in an itinerary that also included transporting prisoners, GOI lawyers might be forced to conclude that the GOI itself was in violation of torture conventions. His colleague cited breaking press reports of ICRC comments about Guantanamo as adding fuel to the fire.

2. (S) The DCM told XXXXXXXXXXXX that the USG would be in no position to respond to the detailed questions asked about particular planes, such as the Gulfstream jet, but stood by its commitment to abide by Irish law, consult with the Irish and avoid actions that would bring embarrassment to the Irish government. XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed that there is no/no change pending to Irish policy allowing U.S. use of Shannon, but reiterated that some ministers feel they are going out on a limb defending U.S. use of Shannon and that the GOI is counting on the fact that the word of the USG is good and that the U.S. has not and will not transfer prisoners through Shannon or engage in any other activity that would place the government in legal or political difficulty. He said that the government consistently says the same thing and that this must not be shown later “to have holes in it.” He also said it is critical that no “blue water” be found between statements that Irish and U.S. officials make. He said activists dissect statements and take any divergence as a sign that something is amiss. He said the recent assurances from the USG that prisoners had not been transferred through Shannon was helpful, as is, in general terms, the UNSCR resolution asking members to support Iraq. KENNY

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