27 May 2004 Edition

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Sinn Féin TDs urge protest at Bush visit to Ireland

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

The five Sinn Féin TDs have demanded that the 26-County Government immediately suspend overflight and landing privileges for US troops. They are calling on the Irish people to come out and register their opposition to the forthcoming visit of US President George W Bush.

The TDs have tabled a Dáil motion which accuses the government of "assisting hundreds of thousands of US troops to participate in the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq", which has "resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, including the killing of approximately 10,000 civilians and nearly 900 occupation troops, including approximately 800 American soldiers". It says: "Irish assistance in this war has contributed to a situation where thousands of people, including children, are being injured or killed by exploding cluster bombs"

The motion goes on to express its "anger at the cost of this war to date, including an estimated spend of over $100 billion by the US alone" which, it says "could have been better spent in the war on global poverty, hunger and disease". Urging an end to the occupation the motion urges that the transition to Iraqi democratic self-government be managed by the United Nations, that any associated UN peacekeeping force be led by troops from the Arab nations, and that all those responsible for war crimes in relation to this conflict be brought to justice, regardless of their position or rank.

The motion calls on Irish people to "peacefully register their opposition to the occupation of Iraq and to Irish collusion in that occupation on the occasion of the US President's visit to Ireland during the US-EU Summit".

Publishing the motion, Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said supporting this war "in any shape or form goes against the wishes of the people of Ireland and against our neutrality." During statements on Iraq in the Dáil on Thursday 20 May, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin challenged the Government to set out its position:

"I challenge the Government to table an amendment to the motion tabled by the Sinn Féin Deputies and to use Government time to debate it instead of staging these statements which are nothing but a face-saving exercise for the discredited international policy of this Administration," he said.

"The millions who demonstrated throughout the world against the Anglo-American invasion correctly predicted that it would lead to a nightmare for the Iraqi people, thousands of whom would be killed. They warned that it would lead not to the Iraqi people liberating themselves from the brutal dictatorship but to a Western military occupation which would create a vicious cycle of brutal repression and resistance. They warned that it would lead to human rights violations on a mass scale. Sadly, all these are now happening. Those who said "no" to the invasion and the war were right. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, along with the Irish Government, were clearly wrong.

"The news of torture of prisoners in Iraq by members of the British and US military forces should come as no surprise to anyone in this country. All the techniques of torture that have been exposed, including hooding, sensory deprivation, humiliation, beatings and attacking with dogs, were used by the British Army in the Six Counties in the wake of the introduction of internment without trial in 1971. Britain was convicted of inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners by the European Court of Human Rights in a case brought by the Irish Government. What we are seeing in Iraq is nothing new. These are the tried and tested methods of occupation used by the British in Aden, Cyprus, Malaya, Kenya and in our own country. We, above all nations, should be loudest in our opposition to the disastrous revival of Western military occupation and Western imperialism in the Middle East and the Gulf region.

"How can the Government justify its support for the military occupation of Iraq, which is imposing on the Iraqi people the colonial methods tried and tested in many countries by Britain and the US? There is growing evidence that the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, ordered the use of these brutal methods on prisoners. It does not seem to concern this Government in the slightest that Donald Rumsfeld was so assured of his sense of ownership of Shannon Airport that he was photographed addressing his troops there as if he were in a US air force base in America. Who, among those depicted in the released photographs that expose the degradation of Iraqi prisoners, lined up on Irish tarmac before him?

"The current political and military chaos in Iraq is happening not because the people of that ancient civilisation are unable to govern themselves. It is a direct result of this disastrous intervention by Western powers. It will have unmeasured consequences throughout the region and throughout the world. We see the results in Palestine with the Bush Administration giving free rein to its main ally in the Middle East, the Israeli Government, to slaughter the Palestinian people with impunity. As our motion states, the only way forward for the people of Iraq and the region is a speedy end to the occupation."

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