Saturday 24 March 2018

Soldiers' families pin hopes on review of deaths

Fergus Black

THE families of three peacekeepers who were killed in a bomb blast in Lebanon more than two decades ago are now hoping that a new review into their deaths will shed new light on the tragedy.

Privates Mannix Armstrong (26) and Thomas Walsh (29), both from Sligo, and Corporal Fintan Heneghan (28) from Mayo, died after their truck triggered a landmine.

The men, who had been serving with 'C' Coy of the 64th Infantry Battalion as part of the Irish UN contingent in Lebanon, had been collecting stones to fill defence netting for a nearby post when the blast occurred near the village of Brashit on March 21, 1989.

Subsequent Irish army and UN inquiries dismissed suggestions of negligence.

But the families of the men have continued to claim that the full picture of what happened has never emerged.

Last April Defence Minister Alan Shatter appointed senior counsel Frank Callanan to conduct a review of the soldiers' deaths.

"We are convinced the three men were sent out on that day in less-than-perfect conditions," said families' spokesman, Enda Heneghan, whose brother Fintan was one of the three victims.

"We are convinced they were sent out on an 'unauthorised' road on an unnecessary mission," he said.

"All we have been seeking has been exoneration for the three men from any blame in this tragic incident," he said.

If the review found what the families expected it would find, then they would expect an apology from the Army for the men's deaths, he said.

Irish Independent

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