Written Answers. - Military Training Exercises.

Dan Boyle

Question:

11 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the nature of the permission granted to the US Air Force to conduct military training exercises from Shannon Airport in June 2002; if this is the first time permission has been granted to US military forces to exercise on Irish territory; if such exercises by the US military in Irish territory are due to be repeated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13744/02]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

19 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if permission was granted to the United States Airforce to hold exercises over the Cork and Kerry coastlines in early June 2002; the basis on which permission was sought; the basis on which permission was granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14826/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 19 together.

Following an application from the US authorities, two US Air Force C-130 transport aircraft were granted permission to land at Shannon Airport on 30 May 2002 for a stay of four days duration. The purpose of the request to visit Ireland was described by the US side as crew rest and training. We understand this involved routine proficiency training including instrument approaches. The US indicate that it is customary to use different locations to practice these manoeuvres in order to broaden their experience.

The visit was routine. The two transport aircraft arrived at Shannon on 30 May. On 31 May they conducted a sortie around the South West coast. On the following day they flew to Scotland and returned to Shannon. On 2 June the planes did not fly and they departed at 8.30 a.m. on 3 June to return to their base at Ramstein, Germany. The fact is that there was no request to carry out an exercise in Irish airspace and no such exercise took place.

Under the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order, 1952, foreign military aircraft require the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to overfly, or land in, the State. In the case of routine landings of military aircraft, permission is granted, on a case by case basis, subject to confirmation that the aircraft is unarmed, does not carry arms, ammunition or explosives and does not form part of a military exercise or operation. In accordance with standard procedures, the US side confirmed that these conditions were being met in respect of the two aircraft involved.

The two aircraft in question were not in Ireland in connection with a military exercise. It is not the Government's policy to grant overflight or landing permission to foreign aircraft that might be engaged in any form of military exercise. There are no implications for Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality arising from the Government's decision to grant permission for these landings.
Furthermore, there was no involvement on the part of the Defence Forces. The US authorities have not requested landing permission for similar purposes since the flights in question. Any such requests would be considered on a case by case basis.