ANTI-WAR PROTESTORS ACQUITTED OF DISARMING US PLANE IN IRELAND – Former ABC Activist Among Them               by Murray Horton

Peace Researcher 33 –  November 2006

 

 

Ciaron O’Reilly, Australian by birth, peace warrior throughout the world, is well known to the Anti-Bases Campaign and the broader New Zealand peace movement. ABC is proud to include Ciaron as a former activist of ours, back in the 1990s. He featured in Peace Researcher when he was last in this country (see “Ciaron O’Reilly, A Flying Visit From The Peace Warrior”, by Murray Horton, in PR 24, December 2001, which can be read online at http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/predit.htm).

 

To quote from that: “(Ciaron) was an active member of ours for about six months or so back in 1994 (as was his former partner in crime, Moana Cole. Both had been imprisoned in the US and deported for their symbolic Ploughshares disarming of a US Air Force bomber, inside an air base, during the 1991 Gulf War). In 1994, Ciaron and Moana were arrested for trespass, on Hiroshima Day, at the US military base at Christchurch Airport. They defended themselves, were convicted and fined several hundred dollars each. Ciaron left New Zealand shortly afterwards, without paying the fine. 2001 was his first return visit.

 

“He was here on a national speaking tour, primarily about the anti-globalisation movement, and he attracted some high profile media coverage. Ciaron has been busy in the seven years since he was last in NZ. He’s been arrested in Brisbane (his home town) for protesting against the involvement of Australia and oil transnationals in the Indonesian genocide in East Timor; he was jailed in Darwin for protesting against uranium mining on Northern Territory Aborigine land; he was involved with the Catholic Worker group in Liverpool and arrested for protesting at British arms sales to Indonesia for use in East Timor; he was bashed by cops when he was one of the tens of thousands who protested against the World Economic Forum meeting in the Melbourne Casino (how apt) in 2000…” (as for Moana Cole, she is still very much in Christchurch, where she is a lawyer, a mother of two, and still to the fore in peace issues).

 

“Neutral” Ireland Gives The US Military A Vital Air Base

 

In the five years since we last saw him, Ciaron has carried on to bigger and better things, travelling the world from newly independent East Timor to Britain. But it was in his ancestral homeland of Ireland that he achieved his biggest victory so far. Ireland has been officially neutral for decades but that is only skin deep. It is happy to allow the US military to use Shannon Airport in the west of the country as a vital link to service American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In everything but name, Shannon has been turned into a US military base. Ciaron became a leading figure in a group called Pit Stop Ploughshares committed to non-violent direct action to stop Shannon Airport being used as a US military pit stop in the build up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

 

In February 2003 (just weeks before the invasion, in March), Nuin Dunlop, Damien Moran, Karen Fallon, Deirdre Clancy and Ciaron entered Shannon and carried out a classic Ploughshares action (following the Biblical injunction to beat swords into ploughshares), symbolically disarming a US Navy plane with hammers and an axe. Ploughshares activists always wait to be arrested and are fully prepared to go to prison (as happened to Ciaron and Moana as a result of their 1991 Gulf War disarming of the bomber at an Air Force base in the US). So the five of them were arrested and charged with causing $US2.5 million worth of damage to the plane. They were remanded in custody for six weeks and then released on bail with very strict conditions, having to report to the Police daily for two years.

 

The trial eventually took place, on its third attempt, in Dublin, in 2006. The first one was aborted after six days as the judge agreed that he was biased and disqualified himself. The second one lasted 11 days before that judge admitted that he was a personal friend of President Bush who had attended the latter’s inauguration as Texas Governor and had been invited to his inauguration as President!

 

The defence was that the five were acting to protect lives and property in Iraq. Indeed that they had no option but to confront the State and break the law because the Irish government had sold out its own Constitution on the issue of neutrality and become an active partner in the war on Iraq. And the jury agreed, taking less than five hours to reach a unanimous verdict, acquitting all of them of all charges. This was an emphatic statement of opposition from ordinary Irish people to Ireland’s collaboration with the US military, entirely consistent with the fact that 100,000 people marched in Dublin to oppose the war on Iraq when it began in 2003. The jury’s verdict caused apoplexy in the US, whose Embassy in Dublin asked for a “please explain” from the embarrassed Irish government.

 

Ciaron and co stepped up the pressure, announcing a new campaign to close Shannon Airport to all military use. “Shannon Airport is already being demilitarised by the Ploughshares action, acquittal and statement of intent. An unstoppable chain of events has been initiated which will see the demilitarisation of Shannon Airport and the cessation of its role as gas station/pit stop for the US war machine on its way to slaughter  the innocents. As surely as the US is losing militarily in Iraq, the Ploughshares prophecy is winning at Shannon” (press release, quoted in The Common Good [NZ Catholic Worker newsletter] 38, Spring 2006). During the latest Middle East war, namely the 2006 one between Israel and Lebanon, the US rushed supplies of its latest bombs to its Israeli clients. But the flights were redirected away from Shannon to Prestwick in Scotland. Protests there forced them to be further redirected to the Royal Air Force base at Mildenhall in England. So, people power and non-violent direct action are working. Ciaron and his colleagues deserve a medal for their courage and perseverance in working to demilitarise one vital cog in the US military’s war machine.

 

 

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