Statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD
At 5 pm yesterday my Department was contacted by the US Embassy and informed of the following events;
On Sunday last, 11 June, a civilian aircraft landed at Shannon for a technical refuelling stop en route from Kuwait to the United States.
Among other unarmed military personnel the plane was carrying a US Marine convicted of a minor breach of the US military code. He was in military custody. He was wearing military fatigues.
While the transfer of such a prisoner would be lawful under international and domestic law, it requires the consent of the Minister for Justice. The US authorities did not seek such consent. This failure, though inadvertent, is unacceptable. It is a matter of gravest concern to the Irish Government.
Yesterday evening, upon my return from the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg, I was informed of these events and immediately summoned the US Ambassador to Iveagh House, where we met for the best part of an hour.
I outlined our serious concerns. The Ambassador confirmed the sequence of events as set out above and made clear that the failure to seek consent arose from an administrative error.
He conveyed his deep regret for the breach of procedures. He undertook urgently to advise his authorities of my views.
He also confirmed his willingness to review the situation immediately with a view to ensuring that there is no recurrence.
I informed the Ambassador that, notwithstanding the fact that this incident had no connection with allegations of extraordinary rendition, it was unacceptable that it should happen.
I also informed the Ambassador that Cabinet, at its meeting this morning, would consider what steps it now considered appropriate in light of these events.
I briefed the Cabinet this morning. Following our discussion, we decided to make public our grave concern. We are looking for a full written report from the US Embassy. In addition, to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to prevent any recurrence of this incident, we will engage in further discussion with the US authorities on arrangements for notification and information sharing, and the strengthening of verification procedures as necessary.
These steps have been conveyed to the US Embassy.
It has been the consistent position of the Irish Government that no aircraft can use Shannon for extraordinary rendition. We will not facilitate and have not facilitated extraordinary renditions. That is, and remains, our policy.
We have always held that if the Irish Government at any stage received hard evidence of extraordinary rendition we would act upon it and expect An Garda Síochána to act upon it – a position I repeated yesterday in an interview in Luxembourg.
While I would reiterate that this incident is unconnected to allegations of extraordinary rendition, it is essential, not least in the interests of public confidence, that the Government take appropriate steps in response to such a breach. This is what we have done.
13th June 2006
Department of Foreign Affairs