THE Department of Transport has dismissed claims by Independent TD Mick Wallace that deadly cluster bombs passed through Shannon Airport en route to the Middle East.
Mick Wallace had claimed in the Dáil that liquid fuel explosives and rockets with bursting charges had transited via Shannon in November 2014.
However, it has now emerged that the government actually refused two requests for the cluster bombs to be even allowed enter Irish airspace, let alone to land in Shannon.
Mr Wallace had claimed that the deadly weaponry was being shipped through Ireland for use in “killing innocent people” in Yemen.
He told the Dáil last December: “In November 2014, two planes passed through Shannon Airport coming from Delaware. They were carrying class 1 liquid fuel explosives and rockets and class 1 explosives and rockets with bursting charges.
“Why in god’s name are we allowing cluster bombs go through our airspace to Saudi Arabia? The US is backing the Saudi mission in Yemen, a country in which there is an absolute humanitarian disaster. Cluster bombs going through Ireland are killing innocent people on a daily basis.”
In response, Defence Minister Paul Kehoe told him he was not aware of cluster bombs being on board any of the aircraft allowed pass through Shannon.
Mr Wallace insisted that he was “not making it up” and that the information had come through a Freedom of Information request.
On a separate occasion in the Dáil, Mr Wallace specified two separate dates in November 2014 when cluster bombs had “passed through Shannon”.
The claims appear to be based on a Freedom of Information request made by the campaign group Shannonwatch, where details of hundreds of military overflights and landings were made available.
Shannonwatch later posted a version of the document to their website.
However, both the original request and the uploaded Shannonwatch document are clear that both of the flights to which Mr Wallace was referring were actually refused permission to enter Irish airspace.
On November 15 in 2014, a request was received from Atlas Air to fly a plane over Ireland from Delaware to Ta’if in Saudi Arabia. It was carrying class 1 explosives and rockets.
The following day, a request was received from the same airline for another plane to fly the same journey, this time carrying class 1 explosives and rockets with bursting charges.
However, both applications were refused according to the FOI documents.
This has now been confirmed by the Department of Transport who said: “The document on Shannonwatch’s website was not generated by the Department, but it is similar to the schedule issued in response to an FOI request relating to all munitions exemptions issued in 2014.
“In relation to [the two applications] … we can confirm that both these applications were refused. The column of the document titled ‘Exemption issued?’ which states ‘No’ for applications 539 and 540 is correct.”
Despite repeated requests for comment by phone and email, Mr Wallace has not responded to questions asking him to clarify his remarks.
Mr Wallace is not the only Oireachtas member to refer to flights having carried cluster bombs through or over Ireland.
Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan also made the claim saying: “We helped bring cluster bombs – imagine that – through Shannon Airport to Saudi Arabia in November 2014. It is on the record. The government’s information confirmed this under a freedom of information request.”
Senator Gavan has admitted that he was incorrect in his interpretation of the data.
He said: “I was incorrect to cite government information in support of my assertion that cluster bombs have been brought through Shannon.”
Independent TD Clare Daly also made reference, albeit less directly, to the manufacture of cluster bombs and their passage through Ireland when she appeared on the Vincent Browne show last year.
She said: “Some of the information sought and received by Shannonwatch last year, under Freedom of Information, shows the amount of permits sought for munitions to be transported, including materials that could go to form cluster bombs.”
Ms Daly did not respond to requests for comment.
The information obtained by Shannonwatch revealed that there were 606 requests for exemptions under the Air Navigation Order for the carriage of munitions of war, weapons, and dangerous goods in 2014.
Of these, just over twenty were refused – generally where permission was sought to bring explosives either through Shannon or over Irish airspace.
The vast majority however, were granted with most relating to the movement of US troops, who were generally permitted to travel with their weapons but without ammunition.