“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Martin Luther King Jr.
A 71 year old Lebanese man was detained in America yesterday in connection with the murders of two Irish soldiers and the wounding of another in Lebanon on April 18th1980.
Mahmoud Bazzi was extradited by US immigration authorities back to his country of origin where he was arrested and held by Lebanese authorities in Beirut later yesterday.
It is alleged that he murdered two Irish, United Nations serving soldiers: Private Derek Smallhorne and Private Thomas Barrett and also that he attempted the murder of Private John O’Mahony – a native of Scartaglin.
Private John O’Mahony was shot and seriously wounded but his two comrades died from their injuries on that fateful day. The men were there as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Talking to reporters yesterday, Defence Minister Simon Coveney described the arrest as a significant step in the pursuit of justice for the soldiers involved.
Speaking on Saturday morning from his home in Scartaglin, Private John O’Mahony said that he’s glad that the case is moving forward after all these years.
‘It’s 35 years ago now and I remember it like it happened yesterday. The important thing is that we might see justice for the Barrett and Smallhorne families – I mean that’s a long time to wait for justice and the families deserve that much anyway. It’s good to see that the case is moving forward and colleagues of mine are telling me that the story is making news all over the world today.” said Mr. O’Mahony.
“Even thought we were there on a peace-keeping mission there was always aggravation from the South Lebanon Army members. They had youngsters from 10 years of age upwards carrying AK-47 Kalashnikovs and other heavy weapons around the place. Voilence seemed to be a kind of pastime to them and they were hostile towards anyone even going about their own business – as we were. They were in the middle of an awful civil war at the time and it didn’t seem to matter to them that we were there strictly as peace-keepers,” he said.
“I knew the man who was arrested yesterday and had encountered him on several occasions. He and other members of the SLA would hold us up at gunpoint on a daily basis at times. I’d say that it depended on what kind of mood they were in on any given day. It spilled over on that day in April in 1980 and the consequences were awful as the world knows. Now it’s up to the Lebanese authorities to take the case further and my late colleagues and their families deserve that much anyway.
Yes I suppose I’m lucky. As they say in these kind of situations, my number didn’t come up that day – that’s all,” said Private O’Mahony.