As the looming invasion of Iraq darkened the winter of 2003, sparks of hope flashed in Ireland, where iron tools struck steel warplanes. Mary Kelly, who used a fire-axe to disable a U.S. Navy troop transport plane on January 29, was charged with "criminal damage without lawful excuse." At her June, 2003, jury trial in Kilrush, Co. Clare, she put forward a defense of acting to save lives and prevent crime, justified under both domestic and international law. She had the opportunity to act because Shannon Airport is a major refueling stop for U.S. soldiers and their gear en route to the Mideast, defying Irish constitutional claims of neutrality.
Summing up, the trial judge stated that international law does not apply in Ireland and practically demanded a guilty verdict. But independent minded jurors produced a deadlock after five hours of deliberations, and a mistrial was declared.
Two days into her June 2004 retrial, Kelly's defense counsel abruptly resigned, causing another mistrial. Her second retrial will begin October 19.
No sooner had the plane Kelly disarmed been repaired, than a group of Catholic Workers, calling themselves the Pitstop Ploughshares, went to work on it again. Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Karen Fallon, Damien Moran and Ciaron O'Reilly spent up to several weeks in jail after the February 4, 2003 action. All are now out on conditional release: banned from County Clare and from a mile radius of the U.S. embassy, and required to sign on twice a week at a police station. They face two counts of criminal damage and a maximum 10 year sentence if convicted. Trial has been repeatedly postponed as the prosecution fights defense pretrial demands for evidence about Irish complicity in U.S. war plans.