Report on death of Donegal soldier in Lebanon expected tomorrow

Three-year wait for the publication of report into deaths of two Irish soldiers

Declan Magee


Declan Magee

Report on death of Donegal soldier in Lebanon expected tomorrow

Private Hugh Doherty (right) just two days before he was shot dead in Lebanon.

The long-awaited report into the events surrounding an attack which left a Donegal soldier dead and his colleague missing in Lebanon in 1981 is expected to be published tomorrow.

The report by former High Court judge Roderick Murphy into the deaths of Privates Hugh Doherty from Letterkenny and Kevin Joyce from Co Galway  was given to then minister for defence Simon Coveney three years ago but is yet to be published.

The judge had been commissioned in December 2014 to write a review of all aspects of previous inquiries into the deaths.

The review followed a campaign by family members and former colleagues of the soldiers who believed the deaths were not adequately probed.

A number of soldiers who were serving with the two men were interviewed by  Mr Murphy, including Dungloe man Michael Walker.

Privates Doherty and Joyce were killed on April 27th, 1981 near the village of Dyar Ntar in south Lebanon.

The two men were serving as members of the Irish Battalion with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil).

The terms of reference of the review included an examination of two inquiries - a UN board of inquiry and an investigation by the Defence Forces.

Private Hugh Doherty died while manning an observation post. he  had only been in the country five days.

It is believed Private Joyce was kidnapped and then murdered by a Palestinian faction. He has been missing presumed dead ever since.

The  Department of Defence sought and received legal advice from the Attorney General in relation to the publication of the report after it was delivered.

The draft report was forwarded on a confidential basis to the families and former colleagues.

The final report was presented to the dead soldiers’ families in recent weeks and it is expected to be published by defence minister Paul Kehoe imminently, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

Mr Walker, who saw the 20-year-old Private Doherty on the day he died, said he was hoping for a favourable report that will highlight the shortcomings that led up to the murders.

“I hope to see a report that means that certain things that happened will never happen again,” he said.

“There were things that happened in relation to the families and former colleagues after the deaths that shouldn't have happened. The families should have been given the full story from the start, not 30 years later.”

He said the failure to interview colleagues of the soldiers was one of the failings of previous inquiries.

Mr Walker said the potential for attacks on UN personnel was high following the deaths of three Senegalese soldiers in a single gun attack three months previously just 8 km from where the Irish soldiers died.

“The situation was that there was a civil war in Lebanon and the two men should never have been sent on their own without an NCO (non-commanding officer). Even three men would not have been enough. It was bad planning that led to this tragedy. They should never have been sent out there (to the observation post). There was no proper risk assessment. I am looking forward to seeing what the recommendations are.”