Wednesday, 21 February 1990
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Defence (Mr. Lenihan): This morning, between the hours of 7.40 a.m. and 9.30 a.m., an exchange of fire took place between De Facto Forces at Haddathah Compound and armed elements firing from near Haddathah in the Irish Battalion area of operations in South Lebanon. Throughout the firing, Irish troops remained under cover. At 10.10 a.m., after the firing had ceased, a foot patrol from A Company, 66 Battalion, moved through Haddathah to  assess what damage had been caused and what casualties had been suffered among the local population.
At the south-western edge of the village, a confrontation took place between the patrol and a number of armed elements. The armed elements first threatened the patrol and then opened fire. One Irish soldier was injured when an RPG anti-tank round struck a jeep. Two other Irish soldiers received gunshot wounds. The Irish patrol was ordered to return fire. Two of the armed elements were fatally wounded.
The three Irish soldiers who had received injuries were evacuated by helicopter to the UN hospital at Naqoura. All are expected to recover. Two other soldiers are being maintained under medical observation for shock following the blast of the RPG anti-tank round. The injured men are Private Riccardo Lucchesi, 17 Aghnameen Park, Dundalk, Private Patrick Mason, 44 New Vale, Shankill, County Dublin and Private Anthony Sheeran, 3 Tower View, Terenure, Dunleer. Naturally I express sorrow at the incident and regret that two fatalities occurred. I wish a speedy return to health of the Irish Army personnel involved. I will be glad to give any further information that arises but, as of now, that is the exact situation as furnished to me. I feel that the House should have the knowledge because it is now public knowledge and more details will probably emerge but I am satisfied that what I have stated here represents the facts.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Ordinarily announcements differ from statements in that there is no debate on them. If Deputy Mac Giolla felt there was some brief comment that should be made, the Chair would be amenable to departing from the Standing Order governing announcements. We will take a brief comment from a spokesperson from the three major parties. If Deputy Mac Giolla is happy with that, perhaps he will allow me call the spokesperson from the bigger party first.
Mr. Nealon: I thank you for the facility and I also thank the Minister for making known his knowledge of this incident in the House. This is the appropriate place to do that. I assume he will keep us fully informed as future developments emerge. I think it is important, in the interest of clarity, that the facts are brought out and not something that assimilates to the facts.
I join with the Minister in expressing regret that the incidents took place. I also want to join with him in his expression of sympathy and wish for a speedy return to full health of the people who were injured. Despite the difficulties and the danger there our Army personnel are very anxious to continue to serve in the Lebanon. This incident should be followed up and when the full facts emerge, if required, a protest should be made to the appropriate authority.
Mr. Ryan: On behalf of the Labour Party I thank the Minister for bringing this news to the House this afternoon. We regret very much the fatalities that have occurred, and as far as our own soldiers are concerned I wish them a speedy recovery. I should like to say very clearly that once again this is an indication to the general public of the danger which faces our troops day in day out. If the Minister has not got the information, perhaps he could satisfy himself and us that the Irish peace-keeping personnel were not put in unnecessary danger on this occasion. If he is not in a position to clarify that, perhaps he would get clarification from the United Nations. It has to go out from here that we want the Irish to continue the work they are doing, but no problems should be put in their way. I wish a speedy recovery to our personnel who were involved.
Tomás Mac Giolla: I simply want to express our support for the men who are out there under very dangerous conditions. I thank the Minister for his very speedy announcement. I regret the  deaths that have occurred and I hope the injured will recover. I presume, at this stage, that the Minister having referred to armed elements had no information as to who was responsible. I agree that when that is discovered a protest should be made. I thank the Minister and I hope everybody will recover.
Mr. Clohessy: On behalf of my party I would like to join with the Minister in sending our good wishes to the members of the peace keeping force in the Lebanon where they have maintained order since they arrived there. I would also like to thank the Minister for informing us of the incident at such short notice and he may be able to elaborate on it some time tomorrow.
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