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Embassy was concerned over Shannon

By Irish Echo

The American embassy in Dublin believed in 2006 that the Irish government introduced new conditions on the use of Shannon airport by U.S. troops in order "to dampen public criticism," this in the countdown to the 2007 general election.

The view from the embassy was stated in a cable, leaked last week by WikiLeaks, that was sent by the U.S. ambassador at the time, James C. Kenny.

In a diplomatic cable classified "confidential," the ambassador outlined the "more cumbersome" notification requirements for equipment-related transits introduced following the Lebanon war in summer 2006.

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Kenny wrote that the embassy suspected that the Irish government aimed with the new constraints to dampen public criticism ahead of the 2007 general elections.

Kenny asked for State Department guidance regarding the "Shannon Five," a reference to five protesters who were acquitted of criminal charges for damaging a U.S. aircraft at the airport in 2003.

Kenny opined in the cable that the new rules for Shannon were "designed to give the Irish government more latitude to decide on allowable transits. He apparently believed, however, that the Irish government also wished to maintain the "diplomatic benefits" and the "significant revenues for the airport and regional economy." deriving from considerable use of the airport by the U.S. military as a transit point.

Kenny wrote that the Irish government had "consistently" acted to ensure continued U.S. military transits at Shannon in the face of public criticism.

He noted that Fianna Fáil was concerned that Shannon could easily become a campaign issue, a view that "mid-level" Department of Foreign Affairs officials had cited "in informal discussions."