Ploughshares acquittal anniversary statement
It is one year since a jury of Irish people acquitted the Pitstop Ploughshares unanimously of doing over $2 million worth of damage to a US warplane at Shannon Airport. In the first unanimous acquittal ever in the history of the ploughshares movement, twelve Irish people made the brave decision of acquitting the five defendants - Ciaron, Damien, Deirdre, Karen and Nuin - and the news was welcomed by the broader anti-war movement. Even those who defined themselves as anti-war, but did not initially endorse our action, welcomed the acquittal as a victory for the anti-war cause.
It was a bittersweet vindication for the Pitstop Ploughshares and our supporters. Terror and destruction were reigning down on Lebanese families as we attempted to celebrate. Nonetheless, the event was a morale boost for all of those who had worked tirelessly to stop the pimps in the Irish Government from prostituting out a major civilian airport for the corrupt uses of empire.
The three-and-a-half years prior to our acquittal involved a long and sometimes difficult, but very willing, struggle on the part of the Pitstop Ploughshares and our supporters to continue our witness in a sometimes hostile environment. It also involved hard graft on the part of an extremely gifted, determined and compassionate legal team. Two trials were aborted: one due to prejudicial statements on the part of a judge with regard to a potential witness, and another because the judge presiding over the trial was socially and politically acquainted with the President of the United States. (As one of our group was fond of saying, “you couldn't make this shit up.”)
Events that have occurred in the year since our acquittal appear to have shown that the margins are the only place to exist with integrity when it comes to politics in Ireland today. We remain on the margins politically, and proudly so. In the past year and before, Republican politicians in the US have consistently had yet more of their crimes covered over or pardoned – crimes of omission in regard to those oppressed through sheer neglect in their own country, such as the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and crimes involving crooked financial dealings, motivated by greed. In the meantime, our politicians continue to facilitate the US Government's murderous adventures in the Middle East by allowing the use of Shannon Airport as a pitstop for its machinery of death. Truly, the notion of justice continues to be turned upside down.
The Irish Green Party, once trusted by some in the anti-war movement to stick to its principles on Shannon Warport, has now entered into a deal with the devil that would make Machiavelli blush. Neither the sacredness of human life nor the sacredness of our precious heritage at Tara has been deal-breakers for “Greens”, whose stated core principles are, apparently, non-violence, ecological sustainability, grassroots democracy and social justice. Like Pontius Pilate, the Greens have washed their hands of the truth of the murderous corruption they are tacitly endorsing by entering into government with Fianna Fáil. They have chosen to turn a blind eye the cries of our crucified Middle Eastern brothers and sisters. The Iraqis and Afghans are not guilty of any crime, the Greens admit, but are condemned to misery and death anyway, with the help of the Irish government of which they are now a part, all in the name of realpolitik. And, like Pilate, they attempt to rationalise their decision with arguments for the greater good - presumably, they mean the greater good of themselves and their well-heeled voters.
On the anniversary of a rare victory for the anti-war movement in Ireland, we urge all activists and Irish people not to forget the importance of keeping the pressure up about Shannon Warport. Its use for military refuelling, CIA rendition planes and troop recreation is as much of a disgrace as it was in 2003, and makes a mockery of our supposed national interest in peace. We ask that people power, and faith in direct democracy and non-violent resistance, be embraced repeatedly until the message is rammed home about Irish collusion in misery and destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East, creating scars in the region that may take decades or more to heal. We must continue to care, act and lovingly resist the destructive forces of militarism and empire.
'And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.' (Isaiah 2:4)