Thursday, 16 November 2006
Willie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
As the Deputy is aware, I undertook during Priority Questions on Thursday, 23 February 2006 to ask the military authorities to revisit this matter in light of the questions raised on that date. The Chief of Staff appointed Colonel Tom Behan to examine all aspects of the Niemba ambush. Due to the breadth of this investigation, this process has taken some time. I have now had a chance to review this report. I congratulate Colonel Behan for the time and effort he has expended in researching this sensitive and harrowing episode in Irish military history.
The ambush occurred almost 46 years ago. It was the first such action involving the horrific deaths of Defence Forces personnel on a scale which still remains unique. It has never been very far from public consciousness. However, the actual horror of the event has faded from the national psyche at this remove. This report will bring the issue back into sharp focus for anybody who will read it. I publicly acknowledge the sacrifice made by all the members of the patrol at that time. I again extend my deepest sympathy to the families of all those who died. I take this opportunity to underline the courage, fortitude and tenacity displayed by Privates Kenny and Fitzpatrick in order to survive.