Saturday 19 April 2014

Unclear if attack on troops deliberate, says Army chief

HIGH level talks are under way to establish the reason for a mine attack on Irish peacekeeping troops deployed on the Golan Heights.

The chief of staff of the Defence Forces, Lieut General Conor O'Boyle, has said it was not clear if the Irish had been specifically targeted.

But he admitted that the troops had come under small arms fire after the explosion and they returned fire with heavy and light machine guns.

He said there was no evidence to suggest that any of the attackers had been injured during the exchange of shots.

General O'Boyle confirmed that the blast had been caused by a mine rather than an improvised explosive device and had caused damage to a Mowag armoured personnel carrier.

The attack was carried out by rebel forces but the identity of the group involved has not yet been determined.

Within hours of the incident, senior officers in the Undof mission on the Golan had initiated talks to find out the reason for the attack.

General O'Boyle pointed out that while procedures were agreed with groups in one village, those might not necessarily be agreeable to elements in another village.

While concerned by the incident, he was adamant there was no reason to question if the troops should be deployed on the Golan Heights.

The chief of staff was speaking to reporters at the biennial conference of Raco, the representative association for officers in the Defence Forces, in Macreddin, Co Wicklow.

Association president Ian Harrington told the conference that the recent re-organisation of the Defence Forces was causing severe hardship to officers who had been serving west of the river Shannon until their brigade was removed.

He said this decision had left a large number of officers – estimated to be up to 40 – with no long-term potential and meant that if their families were living north of a line from Galway to Longford they would have to spend almost 50pc of their career commuting long distances to work.

General O'Boyle said about 800 members of the Defence Forces had been severely discommoded by the re-organisation but that number had now been reduced to about 80 and the authorities were continuing their efforts to alleviate the impact further.

But he admitted that for some personnel the long commute to work would continue.

Irish Independent

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