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Saturday 20 September 2014

Soldiers' sacrifice recalled as brigade is disbanded

Don Lavery

Published 02/12/2012 | 05:00

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THE sacrifice made by a soldier killed by the Provisional IRA during the rescue of businessman Don Tidey was recalled as the Army's 4th Western Brigade marched into history in a downsizing of the Defence Forces.

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The 2,000-strong brigade, whose headquarters were in Athlone, is being disbanded after 90 years as Army strength is reduced from three to two brigades.

The last general to command the brigade, Brig Gen Gerald Aherne, told 500 troops at Custume Barracks in Athlone that 16 soldiers from the brigade, including Pte Patrick Kelly, made the "supreme sacrifice" while many were honoured for their bravery.

Pte Kelly, 35, died alongside trainee garda Gary Sheehan when soldiers and gardai were attacked by the IRA in Leitrim in 1983.

In July, Justice Minister Alan Shatter posthumously awarded the Military Star Medal to Pte Kelly in a special ceremony in Athlone.

At a stand-down parade, Brig Gen Aherne said the past year had been a fraught and difficult one for all the soldiers of the brigade since it was announced in March that it would be disestablished.

"Perhaps the full impact and implications of that fateful decision are now only beginning to dawn fully on our personnel," he added.

"Our private thoughts and feelings on this decision will remain that – private – for as long as we wear the uniform of the State. The process of change is trying, but we are made of strong stuff. The West is and always will be awake.

"At this moment it is perhaps making a tactical withdrawal. We live in hope of better days ahead."

As part of the reorganisation, the soldiers will become part of the new two-brigade structure whose headquarters will be in Dublin and Cork.

Soldiers from the brigade were among the first to serve abroad, in the UN Congo operation in 1960, and other missions included Lebanon, Chad, Liberia, Kosovo and East Timor.

Sunday Independent

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