In recent years PANA’s main focus has been to end the US military’s use of Shannon airport as a stop-off for arms and troops

Maddalena Dunscombe

In 1996 in Dublin, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance was established. PANA has been working tirelessly ever since to advocate for an Independent Irish Foreign Policy and to defend Irish neutrality. In recent years, one of PANA’s main focuses has been to end the US military’s use of Shannon airport as a stop-off for weapons, arms and troops.

Two activists supported by PANA, Colm Roddy and Dave Donnellan, were charged with ‘alleged’ criminal damage after a protest at Shannon airport over four years ago. The trial began in 2016 and finally, on the 23rd of October 2020 the two peace activists were found not guilty.

Roger Cole, Chairperson of Peace & Neutrality Alliance and one of the main organisers of the 2003 march against the Iraq war in Ireland, joins Stop the War for an interview on the Shannon Airport trial and the anti-war movement in Ireland.

PANA is not only anti-war but also anti-imperialist. How does this relate to Ireland’s past – and present – struggle against the UK as a colonial and imperial power?

Absolutely PANA is an an-imperialist movement. We are affiliated to the World Peace Council and linked with the No to War, No to NATO Network. The anti-imperialist tradition is very strong in Ireland, and the electoral success of Sein Féin is to a great extent, in recent times, part of the evidence.

Since 2001 Ireland has supplied troops to the Middle East and is a part of the industrial chain for arms manufacturers. This of course undermines the idea of Irish neutrality and everything that PANA stands for, but also goes beyond the complicity expressed regarding the Shannon airport. What are your thoughts on this?

The 18% of the people in the Republic of Ireland that don’t support Irish Neutrality is totally concentrated among the rich elite that own and/or control the corporate media. However, while there is an arms industry in Ireland it is relatively small, and very few members of the Irish Army have served abroad, 12 in Afghanistan and none in Iraq for example. If the elite did send them PANA would grow very rapidly.

How strong is the anti-war sentiment among non-activists in Ireland? And has the recent coverage of the Shannon airport trial increased awareness?

Anti-war sentiment is very strong in Ireland, but they really associate war with Irish soldiers serving abroad in a war, as they did in 1914-18. As you can see from the answer to the last question, the Irish Army has not been involved in major wars. It is currently serving in the war in Mali, but only a relatively small number of Irish Special Forces.

After the recent trial, Colm Roddy told the press that “the result of this trial gives us no cause for celebration.” But still this is a small victory for the anti-war movement. What doors does this open for the peace movement in Ireland?

By stating that his and Dave’s victory was no cause for celebration was a reference to all the men, women and children who have been killed by the USA Army with the full support of the Irish State. However it was the Irish State that accused Roddy and John of being criminals, and the unanimous decision by the Irish jury is just another indication that the Irish Peace Movement has the support of the vast majority of the Irish people (82% of the people in the Republic of Ireland support Irish Neutrality RedC/RTE poll May EU exit poll May 2019).

In the last year major unions; Unite the Union, Mandate, the CWU and TSSA have affiliated to PANA. The jury decision should help to accelerate the affiliation of trade unions to PANA. SF, now the largest party in Ireland has been affiliated to PANA since 1996, so I think there is a real case to be made that the jury decision will accelerate this growth in groups supporting PANA.

Since 2003 the Irish Government spends millions each year to cover the air traffic control costs of foreign military aircraft using Irish-administered airspace. The UK’s conservative government have prioritised the funding of Trident by billions, instead of properly funding of the NHS.

Can these issues be compared at all? And how can anti-war movements both in the UK and Ireland continue to work together to end our government’s complicity with war?

No, Not a great deal. The corporate media don’t cover it so people don’t know, although it’s up on our website

Finally, we can and have worked together in the past and PANA is definitely interested. At this stage Zoom meeting should be worth considering.

03 Nov 2020 by Maddalena Dunscombe

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