79-year-old Irish Activist Jailed for Protesting US Militarization
May 2, 2014
UK Stop the War Coalition & The Irish Times
Margaretta D'Arcy, a 79-year-old woman undergoing treatment for cancer, recently served a three-month sentence in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, for protesting the US military's use of Shannon Airport. Released in March, D'Arcy is facing another trial and a return to prison. The activist says she will keep protesting to highlight what she called, "this colonizing of our airport for illegal and immoral purposes."
(March 10, 2014) -- Margaretta D'Arcy, a 79-year-old woman who is undergoing treatment for cancer, is serving a three-month sentence in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, for protesting the US military's use of Shannon Airport.
Released from Irish Jail,
79-year-old Peace Activist
Vows to Keep Protesting
UK's Stop the War Coalition
(March 23, 2014) -- Margaretta D’Arcy, 79-year-old feminist, peace activist and film-maker was released from jail on Saturday, March 22, 2014, after serving three months for protesting against the US military use of Ireland's Shannon Airport.
Following her release, Margaretta D'Arcy continued to reject the charges against her and her co-defendant, Niall Farrell, that they were interfering with the 'proper use' of Shannon Airport by going onto the runway in October 2012 and again in September 2013. They were in fact, says Ms D'Arcy, highlighting the 'improper use' of Shannon Airport by the US military, who have effectively colonized an Irish airport.
Since 2003, over 2 million US soldiers and their weapons and thousands of US military aircraft and cargo planes have transited through Shannon Airport, on their way to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere.
The Government of neutral Ireland has 'improperly' facilitated these movements of troops and weaponry -- which could easily have included killer drones and depleted uranium -- and failed to inspect any of the military cargos. Neither did the government inspect any of the CIA planes landing at the airport, which have been implicated in illegal 'extraordinary rendition' flights.
"It is a fact", stated Ms D'Arcy, "that CIA teams traveled via Shannon en route to kidnap individuals and transfer them to torture venues. This is in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention against Torture. Our Government has turned a blind eye. They are complicit in these crimes."
Galway Alliance Against War summed up the motivation for the Shannon protest as follows:
Over the past twelve years consecutive Irish governments have colluded in Washington's campaign of wars from Afghanistan to Yemen, in which up to 2 million people have perished. By allowing the US military to use Irish airspace and Shannon airport to wage these wars we have become a willing accessory to mass murder. We have blood on our hands…we feel we have no alternative but to block the runway at Shannon to highlight Irish involvement in this carnage.
On her release from prison, Margaretta D'Arcy said, "President Michael D Higgins has called on Irish citizens to have 'conversations' in public places as part of active citizenship. I have sat on a runway, had a court hearing and gone to prison in an attempt to have this 'conversation'."
"I am facing another trial in exactly three months' time. I hope to continue this conversation/dialogue with the Irish people and our Government and judiciary, and to highlight what we have sacrificed as Irish and world citizens by allowing this colonizing of our airport for illegal and immoral purposes."
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Shannon Protesters Spoke for Many of Us
Una Mullally / The Irish Times
(January 29, 2014) -- Sometimes things just sound wrong. Right now, Margaretta D’Arcy, a 79-year-old woman who is undergoing treatment for cancer, is serving a three-month sentence in Limerick Prison for protesting the US military’s use of Shannon Airport.
A few years ago, I met a former Apache helicopter pilot who had done countless stints in Iraq and Afghanistan. He didn’t know much about Ireland, but had been here more times than he cared to remember.
He had been to Shannon, obviously: the little US military base in the west. Back in 2002, when the Irish Government had concerns on whether accommodating US warplanes in Ireland would contravene international law, the State decided to accept the assurances of America, which couldn’t possibly hold a bias in this scenario, right?
So with the Government pushing tin, the ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights arrived with our permission. The term is sanitised warspeak for the cloak-and-dagger transportation of prisoners by the US military. They are flown here, there and everywhere, perhaps to a country where torture is a little more acceptable, or to a CIA black site somewhere in the world for a session of water boarding, or incarcerated, or chucked in Guantanamo indefinitely.
At the 2003 Labour Party conference, a motion was passed that the immediate withdrawal of US military from Shannon would be an essential part of any programme for government Labour would be part of in the future. Fast forward to 2011, and in the Fine Gael/Labour programme for government it was committed: "We will enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law."
Apart from ferrying soldiers to war, between 2001 and 2005 Amnesty International estimated that the CIA landed at Shannon 50 times. They weren’t coming to kiss the Blarney Stone. In 2005 alone, 330,000 US military troops passed through the airport.
That year, the State’s collusion with the US military was worth €37 million to Shannon Airport. When there’s an "economic benefit", one tends to ignore the humanity of it all. Also that year, the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) recommended the Irish Government seek permission from the US to inspect suspect aircraft.
The Government said that wasn’t necessary because our American friends were telling us everything was a-okay. Two years later, the IHCR concluded in a report, "the Irish State is not complying with its human rights obligations to prevent torture or inhumane or degrading treatment [and that its] reliance on the assurances of the US government is not enough."
In 2007, a report by the European Parliament expressed serious concern about 147 stopovers made by CIA-operated aircraft at Irish airports "that on many occasions came from or were bound for countries linked with extraordinary rendition circuits and the transfer of detainees".
They identified stopovers in Ireland or aircraft used by the CIA on other occasions for the rendition of seven named prisoners, and the expulsion of two others. Amnesty International identified one particular aircraft which refuelled at Shannon the day before the "transfer" of Khaled al-Maqtari, who was detained in isolation for over two years at various CIA black sites and imprisoned in Abu Gharib, tortured, and eventually released without charge.
In 2011, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed concern about Ireland’s "alleged co-operation in a rendition programme" and at the "inadequate response by the State party with regard to investigating these allegations". In 2012, a report by Open Society Foundations, identified Ireland as one of 54 governments that participated in some way in CIA operations.
Margaretta D’Arcy, Niall Farrell and others, were right to protest at Shannon Airport. D’Arcy was right to not sign a bond saying she would stay away from Shannon, because doing so would have been a lie.
In February 2003, 100,000 Irish people marched against what would a month later become the Iraq War. Globally, that march, which happened simultaneously in 600 cities around the world, was the biggest protest event in history. The protesters at Shannon are the noble few left from that 100,000.
They are right to protest. Just because what D’Arcy did was technically illegal doesn’t mean it was wrong.
D’Arcy has principles. In the battle between economics and principles, it’s sad to see money wins every time. Right now we’re being sold a narrative that we’ve "turned the corner" on the economy. When are we going to turn the corner on principles?
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