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Lucan to Libya and the tales this boy (16) will have in the Institute of Education

THE images of a 16-year-old Dublin schoolboy, holding his rifle in the air in Libya, are chilling. The young man from Lucan was on holiday in Tunisia when he made an impromptu decision to travel 15 hours across the border to a training camp in Libya.

We too easily get used to these pictures of war-torn areas, with young men firing shots into the air, or driving in the back of open-top vans, rifles being waved at the camera. Reporters in Libya have to constantly find new ways of getting the horror of the situation across, by doing deeper into the war zone, showing more dead bodies, or images of children.


Muktar Smew's parents are from Libya and travelled to Ireland 20 years ago. So for him to go to Libya wasn't a big deal for them, especially when they had no idea that he was going to fight.

But why would a young boy take it upon himself to up arms and fight for his parents' country. For a nation who doesn't send their young men to war, it is something I find hard to get my head around.


I remember when I lived in London and my friends had such respect for the armed forces.

We see how the Americans adore their forces and any chance a President can mention them, he will .

There is no doubt that going to war can teach a young man about honour, duty, pride and hard work.

But it can also subject a 16- year-old to things a child shouldn't see, and leave them emotionally scarred for life.

Muktar describes his experience: "It's hard to know who you are shooting at. Even Libyans are shooting at you, you don't know ... It was like a drive-by shooting. I was a bit scared when there were shots going off, you don't know what's going to happen."

I can only imagine the buzz of being there. Adrenalin pumping, your life on the line and fighting for a cause you believe in.

But its one thing being an adult in this situation -- you have worked through your teenage years and become somewhat equipped to deal with the tragedies that life can throw at you.

Being a 16-year-old in war- torn Libya is something else. This boy, who will be going to The Institute of Education on Leeson Street will be taking images, sounds and smells back from his summer holidays in Tripoli, and will have holiday snaps in his mind, very different from the other 16- year-olds in Ireland who were at the Gaeltacht or summer camps around the country.


Muktar is probably now keen to return and Libya, for more fighting. And although one learns huge lessons in war, one also has to face the brutal reality that death becomes a probability.

And as he holds his rifle over his head, you might admire him. But I would only hope that this young Irish man Muktar Smew stays lucky, and stays alive.