The Minister for Defence has asked for further evidence to be submitted in the case of a Donegal soldier who was shot dead in Lebanon following a call for a new inquiry into the killing.
Alan Shatter has written in recent days to a former colleague of Private Hugh Doherty asking him to submit “substantive evidence” which would show the need for another inquiry into the 1981 killing.
Dungloe man Michael Walker is calling for an independent inquiry into Hugh Doherty’s death. The Letterkenny man was shot in the back when manning an observation post overlooking Palestinian controlled territory while serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil). His colleague, Private Caomhán Seoige from the Aran Islands, disappeared and has never been found.
Doherty had been in Lebanon just five days on his first tour of duty and Private Seoige was due to go home just days later.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) have always been suspected of the killing of Private Doherty and the disappearance of Private Seoige in April 1981.
Mr Walker, who served with Private Doherty in the 28th Infantry Battalion, says the two privates should not have been sent to the post on their own because of an increased threat from the PLO in the area at the time.
He claims a Defence Forces investigation into the incident was flawed because it did not interview all the soldiers who were based at the nearest Irish army post as set out in terms of reference. That inquiry followed a UN board of inquiry which was considered inadequate by the Defence Forces.
In May the minister rejected a call from Mr Walker for an independent inquiry saying there was no evidence of an increased threat to UN personnel at the time.
But Mr Walker’s more recent claims that the terms of the reference of the inquiry were breached have resulted in the minister inviting him to make a formal statement to military police.
Mr. Walker said he is encouraged that the Department of Defence has not ruled out a new inquiry and that at last the truth surrounding Private Doherty’s death and the disappearance of Private Seoige will come out.
“I would be optimistic that they are prepared to look into it seriously and that they are not saying that they will not reopen it. But after 31 years it is tough that we have to put a department under pressure.”
Mr Walker says he is one of as many as 12 soldiers based at the Irish post who should have been interviewed in the 1982 inquiry. He said both the Defence Forces and Unifil have questions to answer.
“The army said there was not an increased threat there but three Senegalese soldiers were killed in January just 10km away. Doherty and Seoige were two privates sent down there with no NCO and without not even a vehicle,” he claims.
He says in Ireland at the time a border patrol would have comprised of at least two NCOS and six privates with two vehicles.
“The case needs to be reviewed independently. These two soldiers were sent out in the middle of the field with no corporal a long way from their post. We only went down to the post the day before. There was no information - it was a new post in a different village. We were very nervous because there was a lot of PLO about that day. A new report is necessary to show that the truth was never told.”