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).
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
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
the US rushed
supplies of its latest bombs to its Israeli clients. But the flights were
redirected away from Shannon to Prestwick
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.