One of Ireland's best-known peace activists has told an audience in Donegal that most people in Ireland are unaware of the country’s role in the international arms industry and that there must be a movement to bring it to an end.
Margaretta D'Arcy, a playwright, writer and peace activist, was in Letterkenny to launch her book, ‘Ireland's Guantanamo Granny,’ an account of her life including her decades of protest which started with protests against nuclear arms at Greenham Common in England.
The 82-year-old was christened Guantanamo granny due to her wearing of an orange jump suit during her protests at the use of Shannon by U.S. military aircraft.
She served nine-and-a-half weeks of a three-month sentence in 2014 for an unauthorised incursion into Shannon Airport.
She had previously served sentences in the North for her protests for rights for women prisoners and in England over the Greenham Common protest.
She told the audience that her time in Limerick prison was “awful.”
“It is like a dungeon”.
Speaking to an audience at the Donegal launch of her book at An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny, she made the point that the issue of the use of Shannon by U.S. military aircraft is not a big issue in Ireland because it is not discussed enough by the public.
“We now know about homelessness, not that anything will be done about it, because it is talked about all the time. Shannon is not talked about. It is not talked about - the complicity of the Irish government with the most horrific wars that have taken place since World War Two. Six million people have been displaced and we as an Irish people have to take responsibility for that because of the planes that come through.”
She said the use of the airport is contrary to the Irish constitution. “Domestic laws are being broken, international laws are being broken and the spirit of the constitution is being broken. So why are we not conscious of what is happening to our country? What is happening to us?”
While she was eventually prosecuted for her protests at Shannon, she said the failure to prosecute successfully a number of people for criminal damage of U.S. planes at Shannon shows there is a collusion among the Irish and American authorities so as not to draw attention to the issue.
“The Americans do not want a focus on what is happening at Shannon. The courts, the government and the Americans collude so that the real atrocities that are happening at Shannon do not come out to us, the general people.”
She said the distraction of people by other issues means they don't have time to focus on issues such as Shannon. “If you are homeless you don't have time, you don't pay the mortgage. We are overburdened. It is as if there is a war against the people of the world. There are so many little things that we are not looking at the bigger picture.”
Addressing the issue of Ireland’s arms trade Ms. D’Arcy said Ireland exports €2.3m of arms a year to countries including Saudi Arabia, the USA, Russia, China, Pakistan Afghanistan. Key components of US Apache helicopters which are used by the Israeli Defence Force are made in Cork and research by the University of Limerick and Trinity College Dublin have been linked to military research, she said.
“Our country is impregnated with destructive forces. We want to stop the arms industry in this country. We have to stop Ireland’s role in the death industry. We have to stop this vicious circle some way or another.
“We could make Ireland into an absolutely free zone without arms and without support of the military and what a difference it would make to the world. Seventy seven per cent of people in Ireland don't want war, they want to be neutral.”
Commenting on the visit of Prince Charles to the county the day after her book launch, she said:
“If you are talking to him could you remind him that his mother put me into jail in Armagh. His mother is head of all the armed forces as well as head of the Church of England. If you would like to get compensation for the treatment that his mother gave me.”