Thursday, 16 November 2006
Willie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
The second area of controversy in regard to the record of the Niemba ambush is what did Trooper Browne do to contribute to the survival of Private Kenny. The report clearly concludes that prior to his escape from the ambush site, Trooper Browne fired his weapon at the Balubas who were intent on beating Private Kenny to death, thereby distracting them and saving his life. The Medal Board that was convened in 1961 awarded Trooper Browne the military medal for gallantry.
Despite all the research, consultation and interviews, there is no absolute certainty achievable in regard to these two matters of controversy. I wish, however, to address some of the ambiguity that may have resulted from the two scenarios recorded in the unit history. In the absence of the wide and detailed research available to me now, the best advice previously available to me was that Trooper Browne most likely died at the scene of the ambush and the Baluba tribesmen carried his remains away. This must now be discounted.
I wholeheartedly recognise and acknowledge that Private Kenny, particularly in view of the serious wounds and injuries he sustained, and Private Fitzpatrick survived a horrific encounter with hostile forces, displaying courage, fortitude and tenacity in order to survive until finally rescued. I commend them both for the selfless service they gave to their country and hope that this report will bring some peace of mind to them both.
While the award of a medal was not recommended, I am examining proposals as to how best these two men's contribution can be suitably recognised and honoured. In addition, I intend to invite both at the earliest opportunity to attend a suitable Defence Forces event at which I will acknowledge their contribution publicly. I also have made arrangements today for copies of the official report on the Niemba ambush to be placed in the Oireachtas Library.