Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence, Sorca Clarke TD, has condemned breaches of Irish Covid-19 regulations by US military troops in Shannon airport as “unacceptable and irresponsible”.
Her remarks follow revelations that US troops had not been abiding by Ireland’s rules by staying over night in Limerick hotels without the legally required negative PCR tests.
Teachta Clarke said:
“I find it disappointing that United States troops have breached our country’s guidelines and put Irish citizens at risk after our government has granted them US of our airports and facilities. It is, quite frankly, unacceptable and irresponsible.
“Questions must now be asked over whether or not the Irish government had properly briefed their American counterparts on our laws and regulations and if this information had been passed down through the chain of command. Failure to abide by the most basic restrictions during a lockdown shows a level of disrespect and dismissiveness that warrants sanction.
“Our laws and regulations are public information which can be found easily online and the excuse that the US authorities weren’t briefed properly is an insufficient one. Having said that, the idea that our government hadn’t ensured that the US troops were aware of and abiding by our laws shows a serious negligent attitude towards the use of those airports.
“The lax attitude of the government is nothing new when it comes to Shannon, with a history of looking the other way and not inspecting transports. This begs the question, were there any other breaches that we haven’t been made aware of?
“Sinn Féin has long believed that the use of Shannon airports to facilitate US military transport is morally wrong given the ongoing wars and conflicts that these troops and equipment will be used in. More to the point it is a gross violation of Ireland’s neutrality.
“With that being said, if the government is going to continue to allow US military personnel to travel through Shannon airport then they must at least ensure that those troops aren’t putting Irish citizens at risk and that they abide by the laws of the country that they are in.
“I recognise the fact that the US authorities have apologised and while that is welcome, it isn’t good enough during a time when Irish citizens are making huge sacrifices to fight this virus and troops are coming in from far regions of the world possibly exposed to new strains.
“This episode is just another example of why the Irish government needs to re-examine its policy surrounding the use of Shannon airport and reflect on the consequences of such a policy.”