A retired soldier and Scartaglin native has provided crucial evidence in a murder case which made world-wide, headline news in 1980.
Minister for Defence Simon Coveney praised Private John O’Mahony for his bravery in giving evidence this week at the trial of the now 71 year old Mahmoud Bazzi for allegedly murdering O’Mahony’s UN peacekeeping comrades, Privates Thomas Barrett and Derek Smallhorne in 1980.
The Lebanese man was detained in America last January in connection with the murders of two Irish soldiers and the wounding of Private O’Mahony in Lebanon on April 18th1980.
Mahmoud Bazzi was extradited by US immigration authorities back to his country of origin without delay – where he was arrested and held by Lebanese authorities in Beirut.
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).
The case is back in the full glare of publicity again this weekend as the trial of Mahmoud Bazzi got under way.
Speaking to The Maine Valley Post at the time of Bazzi’s arest in January, Private John O’Mahony said that he was glad that the case is moving forward after all these years.
Like it Happened Yesterday
‘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.
Spilled Over that Day
“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.
Private O’Mahony told the This Week news programme on RTÉ Radio One on Sunday that seeing justice done for his fallen comrades and their families was a promise he made and it was one he hoped to see through.
It has also emerged over the past few days that John O’Mahony’s evidence could crucially be the only legal platform on which the prosecutors may be able to secure a conviction in the long running case.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Martin Luther King Jr.