A 79-year-old grandmother with cancer was taken by authorities from her home in Galway, Ireland, for protesting the use of Shannon airport for renditions of alleged terror suspects by the United States military.
On the 16th of January, an Irish anti-war activist was sent to jail for three months. Margaretta D’Arcy had been protesting on the runway of the airport in the new town of Shannon, south-east Ireland, and was offered a suspended sentence on the condition that she sign a bond stating she would never enter any unauthorised areas of the airport again. She didn’t want to do that, so – earlier this month – she was taken from her home in Galway to begin her sentence in Limerick prison. The fact that she’s a 79-year-old grandmother of six with cancer is apparently of little mitigative concern to the Irish state.
D’Arcy’s protest was against the continued use of Shannon airport by the United States military. Ireland is supposedly a neutral country, and has been since 1939. However, since the beginning of the War on Terror, the previous and current Irish governments have allowed the American military to use Shannon as a stopover for troops on their way over to Iraq and Afghanistan. The airport has also been used by the CIA in a number of “extraordinary renditions”, the extrajudicial transfer – or kidnapping, essentially – of “enemy combatants”, before they’re taken over to Guantanamo Bay and all the horrors that await them there.
Public reaction to D’Arcy’s imprisonment has been mostly critical, with people angry at the Irish government making an example of a pensioner to prove its allegiances to the US military. There have been a number of protests against her detention in Ireland and abroad, including one in London and another, somewhat bizarrely, in Bil’in, Palestine. Fifteen MEPs have written to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to demand her release, an online petition has been set up and the issue has been raised in the Dáil [Irish government] by TDs (Irish MPs) Claire Daly and Richard Boyd Barrett. D’Arcy has also been visited in prison by President Michael D Higgins’ wife Sabina, who is a close friend of hers, but she still remains incarcerated.