US War Drive - End Shannon Stopovers

Michael O'Brien, IAWM steering committee

Socialist Voice Supplement, March 1st 2003

THE PUBLIC stand taken by the government that it won't heed the thousands who marched on 15 February in terms of withdrawing from the US military the right to land and refuel at Shannon Airport, poses the need to escalate the campaign.

Both the scale of the Feb 15 march and the Irish Times poll published on the same day confirm that the majority of the Irish public are against the use of Shannon by the US military under any circumstances.

A debate has been taking place in the anti-war movement on whether direct action should be used at Shannon Airport to force a government u-turn on this issue. Direct action is a tactic not a principle and each action should be evaluated in the context of whether it will advance or hinder the development of a campaign or struggle.

The Socialist Party and our sister parties in the Committee for a Workers' International have a proud track record of using direct action tactics when the circumstances warranted it. During the anti-water charges campaign in Dublin, our members followed the water inspectors and organised protests to physically prevent them from disconnecting the water of non-payers. Mick Barry, Socialist Party member in Cork, went to jail for dumping rubbish on Council property as part of a protest against the bin tax. In Scotland, our members went to jail for stopping bailiffs carrying out warrant sales during the anti poll tax battle, and in Australia our comrades participated in the dismantling of part of the fence at the Woomera detention centre and assisting refugees' escape. On 27 Feb Socialist Party member Bernard Roome proposed a motion which was unanimously passed by the Communication Workers Union (Britain) NEC committing them to take strike action on the day the war is declared, thus facilitating what will be an act of mass direct action against the war monger Blair. The acts of direct action which have already been carried out at Shannon Airport by Mary Kelly and others have played a role in putting the use of Shannon by the US military into the headlines. However, the Socialist Party doesn't believe that these actions in and of themselves will be sufficient to force the government to change its position. In some circumstances, well meaning but misguided acts of direct action can deter people from attending the demonstrations and can be used by the media and the political establishment to try and divide and split the anti-war movement.

The leadership of SIPTU have it within their power to stop the US military from using Shannon if they used the most effective method of direct action in this case, i.e. industrial action. The blacking of US military aircraft by airport workers would immediately end the stopovers.

At this stage of the campaign, the anti-war movement needs to focus on the task of building a democratic broad based activist movement in all communities, schools, colleges and trade unions to organise acts of mass direct action; walkouts and stoppages on the day the war begins; as well as continuing to mobilise for mass demonstrations against the war and the government facilitation of the US war machine.

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