Bishop Willie Walsh endorses Shannon airport peace protests

 After nearly 2,000 people staged a peaceful protest at Shannon airport at the weekend, over its use a stopover for military planes, Rt Rev William Walsh, Bishop of Killaloe, issued the following statement today: Our world lives right now under the frightening threat of war as The United States and Britain count down to a possible attack on Iraq. This "preparation for war" has immediate consequences for Ireland and specifically for us in this region in that Shannon Airport is being used for the passage of troops and possibly arms for deployment against Iraq. This use of Shannon Airport has given rise to much heated debate. For some it is only natural that we should allow the use of these facilities to a nation that has always been a friend to Ireland Allowing the use of Shannon to US troops does not in any way compromise our position on neutrality. Again they will argue that refusing the use of Shannon would weaken our position internationally in trying to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis. Workers at Shannon fear that refusing its use would be a serious threat to jobs in the area. It is all too easy for us to dismiss this latter consideration when our jobs are not the ones at risk. For others the use of Shannon Airport is in itself taking an active role in the proposed war which is going to bring death and destruction to millions of people. They believe that we cannot claim to be neutral while we facilitate the troops on their way to this war. They feel an obligation to protest against the use of the Airport and their position ought to be respected. Their peaceful protest challenges us that we cannot selfishly ignore this appalling threat to the lives of so many people. I believe that it is very difficult to make a definitive moral judgement on this issue. One could easily argue that even if we refused the use of Shannon to US troops they would be facilitated elsewhere. I do believe however that the use or non use of Shannon is not the real issue here. The real issue is whether or not this war can be justified. I believe that the war cannot be justified. The Holy Father in his Christmas Blessing said that a new war in the Middle East is entirely avoidable and is not the way to fight terrorism. He again appealed last week to world leaders to have the courage to say "no to war". He said that military force must always be "the very last option" even when motivated by legitimate concerns. Many argue quite cogently that such a war would be unjustified and counterproductive. According to a UN agency a war will place 10 million Iraqi civilians at risk of hunger and disease and give rise to perhaps a million refugees - all that added to possible thousands of deaths. War can at times solve problems in the short term but the history of war indicates that they solve little in the long term but cause enormous death and destruction and lay the seeds for future conflict at a later stage. The proposed war against Iraq might very well remove the immediate threat posed by the weapons of mass destruction allegedly possessed by Saddam Hussein. But what of the death and destruction and suffering of millions of people? And in the longer term what is it going to do so heal the divisions between the Muslim World and the Western World? Is it really going to help in the battle against terrorism? We have had much talk on "war against terrorism" ever since September 11. It is right that we should make every effort to oppose terrorism from whatever source it comes and for whatever cause it is advanced. But the seeds of terrorism are usually found in injustice of some form. "If you want peace you must work for justice" is a truly wise adage. At the very time when preparations are being made for war there is a threat of famine for millions of people in the Horn of Africa. Surely a "war against hunger" is more urgent than a "war against terrorism" The ultimate weapon against terrorism is the fight against injustice wherever this may be happening. I believe that moral justification for this war against Iraq does not exist. We cannot justify the terrible violence which will inflict so much suffering on millions of innocent people on the basis of a possible threat to us. There is room for diversity of opinions on the use or non- use of Shannon Airport for the passage of US troops. I believe however that this proposed war is unjustified and that we as Christians should voice our opinion against it in every possible peaceful way which is available to us. Source: Irish Bishops Conference Media Office