Wednesday, 7 March 2007
Tony Gregory (Dublin Central, Independent)
I thank the Minister for agreeing to meet the two survivors and for his compliments on their tenacity and courage. It was the largest number of lives lost in the history of the Defence Forces while serving abroad. It has to be true to say that, unfortunately, the Irish contingent was ill-equipped and ill-prepared for what lay ahead in the Congo. The survival of Privates Kenny and Fitzpatrick in the horrific events of the ambush was a measure of their courage, willpower and tenacity, as the Minister said. However, they have never been given adequate recognition for their heroic survival. The Minister has done more than any other in the pursuit of justice in the case, but there are outstanding issues of concern which must be fully and finally resolved. He will agree that it is unacceptable that one or either of these brave two survivors should find it necessary to protest outside Leinster House. That has been the case in recent weeks. Part of my reason for asking the Minister to meet them was to prevent this continuing and resolve the outstanding issues involved. I am glad he has agreed to do so.
In so far as I understand it — he will tell the Minister tomorrow, first-hand — Private Kenny's sole wish is that the official record should accurately reflect what happened to him and how he survived. He is looking for nothing more nor less than this. The Minister will be able to assure him that that will be the case and that his account of what happened to him will be recorded in the official record from now on. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for a variety of reasons. Private Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, wants and is entitled to due recognition for what the Minister has referred in the Dáil, namely, his tenacity and courage in his survival in that horrific ambush. I hope that when the Minister meets Private Fitzpatrick tomorrow he will be able to resolve that issue of recognition. I believe strongly that for far too long, for reasons I will not go into, including some, perhaps, I do not fully understand, these two brave men have not been given due recognition for their courage in their survival in the horrors of Niemba. I hope this is the final phase and that on this occasion the outstanding issues of concern will be resolved and that they will finally receive the recognition due to them.