Friday 30 September 2016

'I’m too handsome to die young' - sister of Irish soldier who died in Iraq recalls his tragic, upbeat final letter

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 07/07/2016 | 15:00

Lance Corporal Ian Malone, who was killed by a sniper in Basra Photo: Damien Eagers
Lance Corporal Ian Malone, who was killed by a sniper in Basra Photo: Damien Eagers
Ian Malone's body arrives in the UK. Photo: David Jones/Reuters Photo: REUTERS / POOL / David Jones
Mary Malone, the mother of Ian Photo: Paul Faith

A heartbroken Dublin woman has said the Chilcot inquiry confirmed her family’s fears that her brother “died in vain” in Iraq.

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Corporal Ian Malone, from Ballyfermot, was shot by a sniper during an ambush in Basra in 2003.

The 28-year-old was the first Irish-born soldier to be killed during the Iraq war.

On Wednesday, Ian’s mother May and his siblings Carol, Michelle, Debbie and Edward were provided with a copy of Sir John Chilcot’s report.

Ian Malone's body arrives in the UK. Photo: David Jones/Reuters Photo: REUTERS / POOL / David Jones
Ian Malone's body arrives in the UK. Photo: David Jones/Reuters Photo: REUTERS / POOL / David Jones

“It was a hard day for us yesterday but we were happy with the findings in the report,” Carol Malone told RTE Radio One’s Liveline.

“We got the answers that we wanted, we believed that it was a war that shouldn’t have happened and Sir John Chilcot’s findings clarified that we were correct in thinking that they shouldn’t have gone to war.

“We feel that he did die in vain, but Ian wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else,” she said.

She added that her mother May has struggled in the weeks leading up to the publication of the report, and had been forced to relive the trauma from 13 years ago.

“It brings an awful lot up for my mother, it’s taken an awful lot out of her losing him, and it doesn’t get any easier as people say,” Carol said.

“In particular, I’ve found this year very difficult without him and it’s the thirteenth year. I don’t know if it’s the Chilcot report coming out and bringing it all back, but it’s been particularly difficult.”

Although the family were invited to the UK to hear the report being delivered, they decided to stay in Ireland and read through it together as a family.

Carol described the inquiry’s findings as “heartbreaking”, but said she and her family are determined not to harbour bitterness.

“Tony Blair has to live with all of those deaths on his hands, and you can see it has taken its toll on him. He’s the one who has to lie down at night and think of all those innocent people who died.

“We won’t live our lives in bitterness, Ian wasn’t a bitter person and he wouldn’t have wanted that, it would eat you up inside. We try to remember him as he was and the good things that he did,” she said.

“What we would hope from the report is that lessons will be learned from this or in a couple of years time we’ll have a very similar situation again.”

On the night that Ian was killed, May had been having a few drinks in the local pub with her partner Tom.

Mary Malone, the mother of Ian Photo: Paul Faith
Mary Malone, the mother of Ian Photo: Paul Faith

“We got a knock at the door, at the time the British attache was there, him and his wife came in and they asked for my mum. He had been killed that day,” Carol recalled.

“We genuinely thought they were going to say he was injured, we hadn’t even contemplated that he could have been killed. A couple of days later, we got his last letter: ‘I’m too handsome to die young’ – a fantastic ending, it gave us a little giggle, even though he was gone he was still making us laugh.”

Carol remembered her brother as a happy man and said he loved the work he was doing in the military.

“As young as he was, he got to see a lot of the world, he was stationed out in Poland, in Germany, in Kosovo and Canada. Those opportunities wouldn’t have been available had he stayed here, because he was just going from warehouse job to warehouse job and there was nothing really for him, he wasn’t happy,” she said.

“When he went out there, he loved it. It was what he wanted to do, and we could see how happy he was when he came back to visit.

“He thought they were going in there and they were going to make Iraq a safer place for the locals and everyone else, but it hasn’t turned out that way.”

Despite the heartache and stress that the Chilcot report brought back for the whole family, Carol said they want to remember how her beloved brother lived, not how he died.

“We’ll remember him as a bright, brilliant man who was full of fun and had a great sense of humour. We’re so proud of him and for what he achieved in his short life,” she said.

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