Home Institution

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Publication Date

Spring 2006

Program Name

Ireland: Peace and Conflict Studies


In 2001, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, Ireland’s Taoiseach Bertie Ahern flew to America to offer President George W. Bush the unlimited use of Shannon Airport in an invasion of Afghanistan. Since then, Ireland has played the role of controversial accomplice in America’s War on Terror. Each year hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops land in Shannon to fill up on beer and craic while their planes fill up on fuel and supplies. And each year, new accusations surface of CIA rendition flights passing through Ireland on their way to torture camps scattered around Europe. With the Celtic Tiger still thriving, this small island is changing more rapidly than anyone could have predicted. With the economic prosperity, however, has come the responsibility of playing a more prominent role in world affairs. No longer is the population flowing out of Ireland like water; no longer is Ireland isolated and detached from the world; and no longer it is easy for Ireland to claim neutrality in the face of conflict. In fact, one must ask the question, has Ireland ever really been a neutral country? The term “neutrality” masks quite a complicated and multifaceted concept, one that is ambiguous to some and essential to others. With the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have sprung passionate peace activists, many of whom have different motivations for protesting the use of Shannon Airport, despite being on the same team. This paper will explore Ireland’s political parties and the rationale behind their support of — or opposition to — allowing U.S. planes through Shannon. It will examine the American perspective on the situation and on Irish-American relations in general, in part through the lens of the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. It will trace the concept of neutrality since the establishment of the Irish Free State, and will look at the significance of the concept today, in the face of war. It will study the careers and motivations of a few anti-war activists and organizations. And finally, it will attempt to determine the effectiveness of the anti-war movement in Ireland.


Defense and Security Studies | Peace and Conflict Studies | Public Policy


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