A Co. Mayo born soldier killed by a landmine explosion in Lebanon thirty years ago was honoured in his hometown of Ballinrobe today.
Hundreds, including family members and other relatives, gathered for the unveiling of a memorial – a handsome stone bench – to Corporal Fintan Heneghan.
On March 21, 1989, Corporal Heneghan died alongside Private Mannix Armstrong and Private Thomas Walsh in a landmine explosion while they were patrolling in South Lebanon.
All three were members 64th Infantry Battalion of the United Nations’ Interim Force (UNIFIL).
The impressive memorial bench, situated at Cornmarket, was designed by members of Mayo County Council’s architect’s section.
Speakers at today’s ceremony included Fianna Fail TD for Mayo, Lisa Chambers, Councillor Blackie Gavin, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Councillor Damian Ryan (FF), Councillor John Cribben, cathaoirleach of Claremorris Municipal District and Liam Hanrahan, Director of Services for Claremorris Municipal District.
Padraig Flanagan, senior executive officer with Mayo County Council, was master of ceremonies.
Enda Heneghan, a brother of the late Corporal Heneghan, spoke of his family’s gratitude that the memorial had been erected. He expressed special thanks to Martin Feeney from Ballinrobe for his role in having the bench erected close to the Heneghan family home.
Members of the Defence Forces, past and present, were represented at the early afternoon ceremony.
Corporal Heneghan was a son of Jack Heneghan, a member and former cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, and his wife, Ellen. Both parents are now deceased.
Apart from Enda, Corporal Heneghan’s siblings – Grace and Anne represented the family at the unveiling ceremony.
Fr. Michael Gormally brought the ceremony to an end when he recited prayers and sprinkled the memorial bench with holy water.
The explosive device which killed Corporal Heneghan and his two colleagues could have been detected in advance, according to a recent review commissioned some years ago by the then Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter.
The independent report concluded that the three soldiers should not have been sent down the track on which they lost their lives without the area first being cleared of landmines and other improvised explosives.
Following the publication of the report, Minister Shatter and the then Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces issued a “wholehearted” apology to the families of the three dead men.