Sunday 20 August 2017

Dr Tom Clonan: Confined to a wheelchair that's too small for him, I can't look my son in the eye

No parent should have to fight so hard to give their child the life they deserve, writes Dr Tom Clonan

Dr Tom Clonan

I served as an army officer from 1989-2000. The Irish Army taught me a lot about myself. According to Defence Forces doctrine, in any conflict we would fight as underdogs. Therefore, we were taught to fight for ourselves and for each other. The message was simple, "Leave no one behind". Survival in adversity meant sticking together and supporting the weakest. It is a concept that has remained with me.

I served in the Middle East during the Israeli 'Grapes of Wrath' offensive in south Lebanon in 1996. During the thousands of air strikes and ground attacks of that punitive operation, we acted as human shields for the civilians trapped between Hezbollah and the Israeli military. Hundreds of innocent men, women and children were slaughtered in the fighting that followed. As Irish troops, we gently handled the broken bodies of children and the elderly alike, digging them out of collapsed houses and returning them to their loved ones. Like so many Irish veterans, I consoled myself with the idea that although we couldn't prevent all of the killing, we saved hundreds of precious lives.

It was an object lesson about society. About man's inhumanity to man and about what it means to be a citizen of the Irish Republic. Our oath of allegiance to the Irish Constitution mandated us to protect the weak and vulnerable.

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