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Shannon US military traffic economic warning

A big loser if military flights were denied access to Shannon would be Limerick, according to the United States Ambassador to Ireland James C Kenny.

A personal friend of President Bush, he vigorously defended American military traffic through the airport, pointing out that it was in keeping with UN policy and Irish neutrality.

Mr Kenny was replying to the Limerick Leader on topics as diverse as "rendition" landings, anti-Americanism, the economy of the Mid-west and his family.

The use of Shannon by the US military since the war on Iraq began has caused much debate, controversy and protests but the Ambassador warns there are dozens of airports in Europe that could do the job just as well.

"If we were denied access to Shannon, it would have absolutely no impact on our military activities in Iraq in support of the democratically-elected government there," he declared. "What it would impact is hundreds of jobs in the Limerick area, but it will have zero impact on military operations in Iraq," said Mr Kenny.

On the issue of so called "rendition" landings, the transport of criminal suspects, generally suspected terrorism, Mr Kenny said there were no grounds to implicate Shannon.

"We would never bring detainees through Irish airports or Irish airspace in violation of Ireland's is sovereignty;" he insisted.

 "There is simply no evidence that we have done otherwise and the Irish Government has spoken very clearly on this subject, that it has not granted permission for such flights," said Mr Kenny.

He blames "activists with a political agenda" for promoting the debate and the wider issue of anti-Americanism.

Referring to the ant-war activists who often picket at Shannon airport the Ambassador said it is often a small unelected group of ideologues who claim to "speak for the people of Ireland".

"Given that we often see the same small group of protesters marching against the Bin Tax, gas pipelines in County Mayo, phone masts, anything that has to do with Israel, it is hard not to see that anti-globalisation and opposition to capitalism colour their thinking," said Mr Kenny.

Looking to the future the Ambassador predicts the US-Irish Open Skies provisions of the US-EU aviation agreement will be a boon to both our countries' airlines, airports, travellers, businesspersons, local communities and overall economies.

As for his own future: "all US ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President, so I will continue to serve here as long as President Bush wishes me to do so."


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