Ahern criticised over Bush meeting
Irish peace campaigners have condemned the Irish Prime Minister
over his traditional Saint Patrick's Day meeting with the U.S.
President amid increasing opposition in Ireland to the war in
The Irish Anti-War Movement are calling on the public to take to
the streets in tomorrow's demonstrations in Dublin against the
ongoing facilities provided to the US military at Shannon
They say the traditional exchanging of the shamrock at the White
House highlights the Irish government's support of the invasion
Recent events in Spain have focused attention on Irish policy in
the Iraqi war, amid fears the country could also become a target
for Arab bombers.
Ireland claims a policy of neutrality, but this was largely
abandoned in support of the U.S and British invasion last year.
"The Irish Government's policy was to assist the American war
effort by giving them the very important facility of Shannon
Airport," said the Green Party's John Gormley, which was most
opposed to the Iraq War.
"We alone of the neutral states assisted the American war effort.
Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden: none of them assisted in
any way, it would be totally incompatible with the concept of
The response of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Cowen
insisted there were "long-standing arrangements" for the
provision of overflight and landing facilities to US military
aircraft, going back 50 years.
"To withhold them now is to redefine, not maintain, the
established policy position in this area," he said. Identical
facilities were provided to the US and its allies during the
Kosovo conflict, "despite the absence of explicit UN
This was described by the anti-war campaigners as "an excuse"
preserving the country's close relationship with US corporations.
They urged the Dublin government to cancel the visit of President
George Bush to Ireland in June.
One of the protesting groups - the Peace and Neutrality Alliance
(PANA) - said it was consulting legal advisers to see if Mr Bush
could be arrested as a war criminal, as former Chilean dictator
Augusto Pinochet was arrested when he visited Britain in 1998.
Mr Roger Cole, chairman of PANA, said the war on Iraq had
contravened international law so perhaps a case could be made
that Mr Bush was a war criminal.
Dublin is one of 108 cities around the world where marches
against the war will be held.
Protesters will gather outside the US embassy at 12.30 p.m. to
hear a roll-call of some of the thousands of Iraqis killed since
the war began. Anti-war campaigners will also read out the names
of American, Italian and Spanish soldiers killed in the war, as
well as the victims of last week's atrocity in Madrid.
At 1.30 p.m. PANA will lay a wreath outside the US embassy to
commemorate the dead.
Buses have been organised from Cork, Galway and Waterford.
The Socialist Party deputy, Mr Joe Higgins, said the Taoiseach's
condemnation of protests against Mr Bush was "a disgraceful
attempt" to mask the strong Irish opposition to US foreign
"It's clear that Mr Ahern has utterly failed to learn from Senor
Aznar's downfall," he said, adding that the recently defeated
Spanish prime minister had spurned the views of 90 per cent of
the Spanish people who opposed the invasion of Iraq.