Statement of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter T.D., publishes the Report of the Independent Review into the deaths of Defence Forces personnel in Lebanon on 21 March 1989
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter T.D., has today published the report of Mr Frank Callanan S.C., into the circumstances related to the deaths of Cpl Fintan Heneghan, Pte Mannix Armstrong and Pte Thomas Walsh on 21 March 1989, while serving with C Company, 64th Infantry Battalion in the United Nations Interim Force in the Lebanon (UNIFIL). Mr Callanan was appointed by the Minister, in April 2011, to carry out the inquiry, which encompassed a review of all available documents and interviews with all persons, as considered appropriate by him.
Commenting on the release of the report the Minister stated, “I met the families and extended to them, on behalf of the Government, our heartfelt regret for the failure to fully recognise, by early 1989, the implications of the changed circumstances in the Defence Forces mission area in Southern Lebanon and for the deaths of their loved ones. While we can never be absolutely certain that that their loved ones would have been saved if the Defence Forces had adopted a higher risk posture and appropriate protection measures, we must accept that appropriate operational procedures could possibly have avoided this tragedy. It is my hope that the report of Mr Frank Callanan S.C., published today, gives a detailed assessment into the circumstances relating to the explosion which ended the lives of three brave soldiers engaged in a peacekeeping mission in a troubled part of the world”.
The Minister commended all serving and retired members of the Defence Forces for their fulsome support and cooperation with this enquiry, without which Mr Callanan could not have completed his work. “It is testament to the deeply held values of integrity and honesty among our Defence Forces personnel, as Mr Callanan has fully documented in his report, that all those interviewed cooperated conscientiously and truthfully with this enquiry”. It is clear from the report that all the officers and men of the Defence Forces engaged in the UN mission in Lebanon at that time, were doing the best they could in a very complex and difficult mission with limited resources. Notwithstanding this, the report concludes that there was a systemic failure, not alone by the Defence Forces but by the UNIFIL mission as a whole, to respond to the increased threat from improvised explosive devices and from the danger of a targeted attack by radical armed islamic elements”, the Minister said.
“We must learn from the past. I believe that the Defence Forces have learned from this failure to undertake an adequate threat assessment and deploy all necessary assets to protect our personnel, wherever they operate. Three men have died and three families have been bereaved and devastated by their loss. Our thoughts at this time must be with them. Unfortunately we can never undo what happened and what should not have happened. As the Report shows, the deaths of Cpl Armstrong and Ptes Heneghan and Walsh could and should have been avoided. For that, on behalf of the State, I apologise wholeheartedly to their families, their loved ones and their comrades”, the Minister concluded.
19th September 2011
For information purposes the families are holding a press conference at 3pm today in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street, Dublin.
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