Dáil debates

Thursday, 1 February 2007

4:00 pm

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)

We examined how best to commemorate what happened in the contribution of both soldiers in a public way. The Chief of Staff suggested that the UNIFIL parade that will take place in Cathal Brugha Barracks at the end of April might be a suitable public occasion because it will attract a lot media attention. Not only will we publicly recognise them at that event but, as Minister for Defence, I will also present them with a plaque or something of that nature. We have decided to do that unless something more adequate is proposed.

Most people who went abroad on service with the United Nations faced immediate danger and came under fire but not all of them have been given medals. The Army is sparing in distributing medals because it does not want to devalue those it gives for exceptional bravery and gallantry. If we gave a medal to everyone who was involved in a dangerous situation and who showed courage under fire, and all of those who go overseas are courageous by nature, it would devalue the worth of those medals.

I will leave the last word on this to the military authorities. Colonel Behan examined the situation carefully and decided that if people showed bravery, which is part of their job, and experienced danger, something faced by every soldier serving overseas, there was nothing extra that would enable him to conclude these men be given special recognition. The Army has had representations made to it by the families of people who died in action that they should be awarded medals posthumously and in all of those cases it refused. It takes exceptional action to get a medal but I leave this to the military authorities and Colonel Behan has not recommended the awarding of a medal. I am bound by that because Colonel Behan carried out a detailed investigation into all of this. He is an experienced officer and I do not want to second guess him.

If there is a need to correct them, that will be done, if has not been done already. I have no difficulty with meeting Mr. Fitzpatrick or Mr. Kenny. If the Deputy or any Member wishes to make an appointment, I would be happy to meet them. I informally met Mr. Fitzpatrick in the House the last time I took parliamentary questions. I had a few brief words with him because I did not have the opportunity to speak to him in detail. If he wishes to see me, I am open to meeting him.


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