To ask the Minister for Defence whether he is aware that Volunteer James Byrne, of the Dublin Guards, was wounded in an ambush at Duagh, Kilmorna, Co. Kerry, on October 13th, that the casualty was reported in the Sunday Independent of October 15th, and that enquiries were made by this Volunteer's mother, Mrs. Byrne, of 3 Willbrook, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin, at Portobello Barracks, and Army Medical Headquarters, Merrion Square, during the following week, but failed to elicit any information; whether the Sunday Independent of October 22nd reported the funeral of this Volunteer from Portobello Barracks, although no notification of his fate had been sent to his relatives; whether, in answer to further enquiries, Captain Stafford, the officer in charge of funerals at Portobello, told the mother on Monday, October 23rd, that he could not say if the lad buried was her son, and expressed the opinion that the soldier buried was either killed instantly, or else had died of blood poisoning; whether the same officer on the following day informed Mrs. Byrne's sister-in-law that the boy killed was Mrs. Byrne's son, and that he had made enquiries in Rathfarnham and had sent notice to the newspapers that an unidentified body was lying in the Barracks in order to enable him to get into touch with the relatives — statements of which no corroboration could be obtained in the newspaper offices or in Rathfarnham; whether, or subsequently, Army Medical Headquarters undertook to communicate with Abbeyfeale, and then notified Mrs. Byrne that the boy who had been buried was not her son but a native of Kerry; whether upon enquiry being made at Oriel House, a message was sent by Mr. Frank Fagan that Mrs. Byrne's son had not been killed, but was in hospital, not so seriously wounded as to require to be brought to Dublin for an operation; whether enquiries were also made of Commandant O'Connor, at Beggars' Bush Barracks, who promised to communicate with Mrs. Byrne, but failed to do so; whether Mrs. Byrne was left without definite news of her son's death until she received on December 14th, in reply to an enquiry she had addressed to the Parish Priest, a letter from Father F.J. Harrington, C.C., Duagh, Kilmorna, Co. Kerry, stating that her son was wounded in the abdomen on October 13th, was removed in a motor ambulance to Abbeyfeale that night, and died half an hour after his arrival there; whether he will ascertain and communicate to Mrs. Byrne the exact facts of her son's death and burial, with an apology for the treatment hitherto accorded to her, and whether he will establish such machinery of identification and notification of casualties as will prevent in future such unnecessary suffering as was inflicted in this case.
CEISTEANNA—QUESTIONS. - DEATH OF A DUBLIN VOLUNTEER.
On the 16th October, Capt. Stafford received from the British and Irish Steam Packet Co. the remains of Vol. James Byrne, supposed to have been killed in action at Duagh, Co. Kerry on October 14th. Records were looked up, and it was found that there were several Volunteers of that name, and many of them on duty in Kerry. Exhaustive enquiries were made to ascertain the identity of this man, but without success. Notices were inserted in the Dublin evening papers that the remains of Volunteer Byrne were lying unidentified in Portobello Barracks. A large number of people visited the mortuary for identification purposes, but as the man was beyond recognition, identification was, presumably, impossible. The remains were kept in the mortuary until October the 21st, when they were buried in the Army Plot at Glasnevin, with full military honours.
It is much regretted that Mrs. Byrne should have been caused any unnecessary pain. Everything possible was done to secure identification, but identification did not result.
Enquiries have not yet been completed in respect of some of the details given in the question, nor as to what the final aspect of this matter is as regards identification.
Can the Minister tell us whether there is any usual practice on the part of soldiers to wear some identification marks giving their number, or discs, such as the British soldiers use? It is a very important matter that relatives should, at least, know from the authorities when their friends have been killed.
It is not at present the practice. We have been able to identify all cases, I think, with the exception of this one. And, considering the difficulties we have been working under, I think that it is hardly fair to make a parade of this particular case. We really have succeeded very well in meeting all the difficulties that have presented themselves to us in this matter, and very few people have anything like the cause of complaint that Mrs. Byrne has.
The Minister will understand that, to Mrs. Byrne, it is just as important as if there were one thousand other people in identical circumstances.
That is quite realised, but it is, as I say, not appreciating the difficulties that we have been working under, and not appreciating what we have been able to do in these matters to make a parade of a question like this.
I assure the Minister there was no intention to make any parade of the question, and I will ask if he will write to Mrs. Byrne and explain in a personal way the position, because she is very hurt over the matter.
I certainly propose writing to Mrs. Byrne when I have been able to clear up the final aspects of identification in this matter.