Thursday, 16 November 2006
Joe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply and for commissioning the report, the contents of which he indicated. I also compliment Colonel Behan for an extremely clear and succinct report. In the Gallery is Dr. David O'Donoghue, who recently brought much of this to the attention of people in his book, The Irish Army in the Congo 1960-1964: The Far Battalions.
Most of all, I acknowledge the two survivors of the Niemba ambush, Mr. Joe Fitzpatrick and Mr. Tom Kenny, who tenaciously campaigned for 46 years to recover their reputations, which they believe were severely maligned, clear their good names and right the record once and for all. A number of years ago, I had the privilege of launching the book written by Joe Fitzpatrick, My Time in the Congo. Mr. Fitzpatrick is also in the Gallery.
Considering this has taken 46 years, and given the trauma and suffering those men and their families experienced due to the loss of their good names, will the Minister explain why we do not have a solution to this matter? Why was the record not cleared before it reached this stage?
Mr. Kenny seeks an apology from the Army and the Department of Defence. Is the Minister prepared to make that apology? Mr. Fitzpatrick seeks a medal. Is the Minister prepared to award that medal? The Minister indicated he is prepared to publish the report, which is worthwhile. The two survivors are at odds with each other on what type of recognition they feel is proper. Will the Minister provide clarity on how he intends to give due recognition and indicate what he will do?
I will quote from the recommendations which are solid and clear:
Thomas Kenny and Joe Fitzpatrick should have their reputations copperfastened by official recognition and acknowledgement that they survived an horrific encounter with hostile forces, displaying fortitude and tenacity in order to survive until finally rescued.