catholic worker activists in ireland attacked a u.s. navy transport plane ten years ago today

by Tim Phillips

Despite Ireland’s tradition of military neutrality, the U.S. used Shannon Airport in County Clare to move troops and equipment to its War on Terror occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. On February 3, 2003, five Catholic Worker activists broke into a hangar at the airport and attacked a U.S. Navy transport plane with hammers and a pickaxe. They were each charged with two counts of criminal damage, which carried a maximum sentence of 10 years. According to journalism lecturer Harry Browne in Hammered by the Irish,

When they appeared at Ennis District Court in May it emerged that the estimated cost of repairing the plane after their action was an incredible $2.7 million, making rather a mockery of the initial police claim that they had been prevented from doing any serious damage. … Even with the ludicrous inflation attached to all costs involving the US military … it was now clear that they had done some serious ‘disarmament’: the plane itself had not returned to action until May, meaning its services were not used at all in the initial weeks of the attack on Iraq.

The activists, known as the Shannon 5 or the Pitstop Ploughshares, were fortunate with regard to their criminal charges, unlike – for example – the Baltimore 4 or the Catonsville 9. After two mistrials, the jurors in their third trial acquitted them of all charges.