Written Answers - Missing Person.

Tuesday, 15 May 2001

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 536 No. 2

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  77.  Mr. S. Ryan  Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith   the position regarding the search for the remains of a person (details supplied) who has been missing in the Lebanon since 1980; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13772/01]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  On 27 April 1981, an observation post in south Lebanon manned by Private Hugh Doherty and Private Kevin Joyce of Irish Battalion came under attack. Private Doherty was later found dead from gunshot wounds and Private Joyce was missing. Some equipment was also missing. The attackers are unknown.

I assure the House that efforts to obtain information on the whereabouts of Private Joyce have been ongoing since his disappearance. I have raised the matter with the Israeli ambassador and the matter has also been pursued by the Department of Foreign Affairs with the Palestinian authorities. During a meeting in the Department of Foreign Affairs in August last year, the then Palestinian representative to Ireland, the late Dr. Youssef Allan, undertook to pursue the matter [319] with his authorities. The Department of Foreign Affairs has also asked the Representative Office of Ireland to the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah, to make inquiries with the Palestinian authorities there. The EU special representative to the Middle East peace process, Ambassador Moratinos, has also been advised on the case by the Department of Foreign Affairs and asked for any assistance he may be able to provide.

During my visits to UNIFIL I have taken every opportunity to raise the issue both with Government and local representatives and with the Lebanese media. In addition, each successive Irish Battalion since 1981, including the present battalion, has been tasked with pursuing the matter.

With the imminent withdrawal of the Irish contingent from Lebanon later this year, my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs are giving high priority to the ongoing efforts to locate the whereabouts of Private Joyce and bring this tragic incident to a conclusion. In April 2001 Private Joyce's brother and sister visited the scene of the incident in south Lebanon.


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