Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Splitting Hairs

What did Mr. Finian McGrath get for his support of Fianna Fail, and what was his prize for joining the coalition of FF and the Greens?

Sure 'tis a secret. The Independent TD has to talk to his constituents first, but he might reveal a bit of the deal. Or at least the part that covers the use of Shannon Airport by the US military. That's no secret, of course. Planes from America touch down in Shannon, the soldiers get a chance to stretch their legs, buy from the duty free shops, and enjoy a lovely cuppa tea before continuing their journey to Iraq and Afghanistan. A plane needs a rest as well, and a refueling, and the Irish Exchequer benefits all around.

Mr. McGrath is not at all pleased that the evil empire's soldiers are setting foot on Irish soil. It's that war, you see, and all that imperialism. Well, when you don't much care about Afghani women being stoned to death for perceived crimes, or you prefer to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the ladies, and the blatant discrimination against Christians, you're more likely to rant and rave about soldiers walking about Shannon. It's as if Ireland is supporting the war, and it's a neutral country, and the war is all wrong. So what if a mullah wants to oppress women. It's their problem. Am I my brother's and my sister's keeper?

The thing about the deal is, Mr. McGrath signed a letter before the election, vowing to not participate in any government that allows the US to use Irish facilities to conduct war in Iraq, or anyplace else for that matter if the letter writers think said war is imperialistic. Here he is today, going into government with a group that hasn't paid the slightest attention to all the anti-war protesters who want the use of Shannon ended. How to reconcile such contrary positions?

Here's where the hairs get split. Mr. McGrath made an agreement with Bertie Ahern, reaching a brilliant compromise that gets both men what they want. Sure, says Bertie, the US can continue to use Shannon as a stopover on the way to Iraq. But that's as far as it goes. Any non-UN mandated military operations can't stop by for a cuppa and a scone. Unless the Dail votes on it and allows the stop, say, if the pilot called for an emergency landing. Being anti-war is one thing, but there are humanitarian concerns after all.

What's so exciting about a UN mandate? The US is operating under a UN mandate in Iraq. As a member of the UN, Ireland has always followed the body's mandates. The government has no intention of blocking the Shannon stopover, because doing so would violate Ireland's agreement with the United Nations. There's nothing more to be done about it, unless Mr. McGrath would like to legislate Ireland's exit from the UN?

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