John and kathleen, Jim and Mick O.N.E. with Lt.Col. John Kilmartin and 27 Inf.Bn. personnel and the Muckthar of Tibnine with local residents
The parents of Michael McNeela, the Dundalk soldier killed on duty with the UN in Lebanon back in February 1989, returned to the country in September to lay a wreath in honour of their son at the monument for all Irish soldiers who died in the service of Peace in South Lebanon.
John and Kathleen McNeela were accompanied to Lebanon on the visit by Jim McEneaney and Mick Reid from O.N.E. (Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel Veterans of Ireland).
The trip was instigated by Lt.Col John Kilmartin Commanding Officer of the 27th Infantry Battalion and sanctioned by Minister Paul Keogh after much lobbying by the Michael McNeela branch of O.N.E.
Jim spoke to the Democrat about the poignant visit.
“We were picked up from Beirut airport by Capt. Sean Maguire and Sgt. Shane Mc Eneaney, UNIFIL. The next day we were taken by UN convoy to UNP 2-45 HQ of the 118 IrishFinbatt operations where we were met by O/C Lt.Col. John Kilmartin.
“After lunch we were taken to UNP 6-52 on the Blue Line faceing Israel we received a full briefing from the post commander Lt. John Mc Crystal. We then travelled to Haddatha where Michael Mc Neela was killed on post 6-38 Alpha in 1989 where Chaplin PJ Summers prayed with John and Kathleen and all present. Afterwards we were all invited to the Muckthar’s (Village Chief) home for refreshments and chat.”
He continued: “Back at UNP 6-45 we attended a BBQ with 27 Inf.Bn. personnel, after the BBQ the Chaplin said mass for Michael in the camp church. Because there is no facilities for visitors to stay in UNP 6-45, we stayed at a nearby hotel.
“We were picked up next morning and taken to Tibnine for a ceremony at the Monument for all Irish Soldiers who died in the service of Peace in South Lebanon.”
Jim said: “John and Kathleen laid a wreath in honour of their son Michael at the Monument. Members of the 27 Inf Bn serving with 112 Inf Bn formed a Guard of Honour accompanied by a piper, a violinist played a lament, and the names of all who died were read out.
“The Ceremony was attended by the Muckthar of Tibnine and local dignitaries, afterwards we had refreshments in the local community hall. A remembrance ceremony takes place every month at this monument by Irish troops. After lunch with Lt.Col John Kilmartin and 27Bn members we returned to Beirut for our flight home next morning.” he added.
John and Kathleen expressed their sincere thanks to all members of the 27 Inf.Bn. and to the 112 Inf.Bn UNIFIL for their kindness and assistance during this trip.
Jim and Mick wished to thank Lt.Col Kieran Carey, Sgt Major John Doyle and the 27 Inf Bn. for fundraising for the ONE members to accompany John and Kathleen to Lebanon. They also thanked PDFORA for their financial assistance.