The United Nations Security Council unanimously determined in Resolution 1441 of November 2002 that "Iraq's non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles" posed a threat to international peace and security. This resolution was the culmination of a succession of resolutions stretching back 12 years to the end of the first Gulf War. The decisions of the Security Council, under Article 25 of the UN Charter are binding on all members. The Government's position in relation to the question of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has always rested on its commitment to the United Nations, rather than on claims put forward by individual member states of the UN.
Subsequent to this resolution and when faced with the threat of force, Iraq accepted the return of the inspectors. However the degree of co-operation extended by Iraq to the inspectors was described by them as less than full. The reports of the inspectors made it clear that many questions remained unanswered in relation to Iraq's holdings of weapons of mass destruction. At the beginning of June, the UN weapons inspectors delivered a report for the period ending 31 May. As with all previous reports from the inspectors, it was balanced and cautious. The inspectors reported that they had found no evidence that Iraq's former weapons programmes had been resumed or continued. However, they also concluded that important questions remained unanswered about Iraq's existing holdings of weapons and materials. Regardless of whether weapons of mass destruction are discovered in Iraq, the fact that the mandate of the arms inspectors remained unfulfilled at the time of the US-led invasion will remain unaltered. The fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been discovered since the invasion of Iraq raises significant questions about the motives of the Iraqi Government in refusing to extend full co-operation to the inspectors.
The transit through Shannon Airport of US military aircraft and chartered civilian aircraft carrying US military personnel is a longstanding practice, subject to the criteria that the aircraft are unarmed and not carrying arms, ammunition, explosives or intelligence gathering equipment. The continued provision of landing facilities during the conflict in Iraq was considered in the light of the principles that underpin our foreign policy, the longstanding nature of our arrangements with the US, our international relations and our broader national interests. The Government's decision to maintain existing arrangements was taken after long reflection and was approved by Dáil Éireann. I am satisfied that it was the right one in the circumstances.