The United Nations has bases and regional headquarters in many parts of the world – and now there’s one in Scartaglin.
The Irish United Nations Veterans Association members have served, with honour, at home and on United Nations missions throughout the world.
There is a local branch of the association which caters for members from the Kerry area and its immediate neighbourhood.
The members have been holding their meetings in the Castleisland area and more recently in Scartaglin at the accommodating family home of Private John O’Mahony.
Best Known of the Veterans
Pte. O’Mahony is, probably, the best known of the veterans as his shooting in Lebanon made near worldwide news on April 18th.1980.
He was in the news again in just before Christmas 2020 when he faced and helped to convict the man who shot and wounded him when he was eventually brought to a court in Lebanon.
Lebanese man, Mahmoud Bazzi, a member of the South Lebanon Army (SLA), was detained in America in July 2014 and extradited by US immigration authorities back to his country of origin where he was arrested and held by Lebanese authorities in Beirut. He was eventually sentenced to life in prison – later commuted to 15 years with hard labour and he was 76 at the time.
Comrades Died from Injuries
It was 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).
Aggravation from the SLA
Recalling the incident decades later, Pte. O’Mahony said that even though he and his UN colleagues were there on a peace-keeping mission there was always aggravation from the South Lebanon Army (SLA) members.
“They had youngsters from 10 years of age upwards carrying AK-47 Kalashnikovs and other heavy weapons around the place.
Violence as a Pastime
“Violence 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 for the murders 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,” said Pte. O’Mahony.
Forty five UN Tours of Duty
“Ireland holds a world record as Irish troops have served continuously for over sixty years on UN service.
Between them, the IUNVA Post 2 members have served on forty five UN tours of duty,” said Post 2 Secretary, John Wade.
“They have served on dangerous missions from the jungles of the Congo to the shores of Cyprus, from the desert of Sinai to the hills of Lebanon.
“They have all seen action on these missions and amongst their ranks are Congo veterans Matt Murphy, Tom Twomey, Paddy Flynn and Tadhg Quinn,” said Mr. Wade.
Siege of Jadotville
“Tadhg is a veteran of the Siege of Jadotville in the Congo. With his comrades and, under the command of Waterville man, Comdt. Pat Quinlan, the 150 Irish troops were surrounded but held out for five days against a force of around 3,000 before they ran out of food, water and ammunition. Tadhg was in charge of a mortar team and played a vital role in the defence of Jadotville with his comrades,” he said.
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