Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Attacks on Irish Troops in the Lebanon.

Madeleine Taylor-Quinn

Question:

1 Mrs. Taylor-Quinn asked the Minister for Defence if he will outline, (a) the number of times Irish troops or their posting quarters have been attacked over the past three months in South Lebanon and (b) whether he has been furnished with the names of the killers of an Irish Corporal (details supplied).

Paul Bradford

Question:

84 Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for Defence if he has been advised whether the Israeli authorities have apprehended and arrested the killers of an Irish peacekeeper corporal (details supplied) in South Lebanon.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 84 together.

Since 1 November 1991 firings close to positions occupied by Irish troops in Lebanon have occurred on 56 occasions. Most of these incidents, as well as the shooting which occurred on 15 November 1991 and which resulted in the death of an Irish soldier and the wounding of another Irish soldier, have been attributed to thede facto forces.

As indicated to the House on 4 December last, the Minister for Foreign Affairs met the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland on 19 November 1991 and expressed the Government's deep sense of shock and anger at this outrageous incident. Assurances were sought regarding the control of thede facto forces, the steps necessary to prevent a recurrence, and the action which was intended to punish the perpetrators.

Arising out of the undertaking given by my predecessor to the House on 4 December last, he subsequently wrote to the Israeli Minister for Defence conveying the strong condemnation of the Government and the House of the activities of thede facto forces in this grave incident and in other recent firings. He asked the Israeli Minister to indicate what action will be taken to curtail the activities of the de facto forces and bring to justice those responsible for the death of the Irish soldier. A reply has not yet been received.

I dtosach báire ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Aire nua agus tá súil agam go mbeidh a dhóthain ama aige chum cúram a thabhairt do na Fórsaí Cosanta.

Would the Minister not agree that a number of 56 occasions is absolutely unacceptable and outrageous; that thede facto troops and, indeed, the Israeli Government are showing contempt and distain for the United Nations forces in the Lebanon; that, as the House condemns outright the actions of the de facto forces and the Israelis in the Lebanon, it is now time for the Government and for all EC member states combined to register their strongest possible protest to the Israeli Government?

Is mian liom ar dtús a rá go bhfuil mé buíoch den Teachta. Tá áthas orm bheith sa Roinn seo agus tá áthas orm go bhfuil cosantóir chomh hábalta agam ó taobh eile den Teach.

I agree with the Deputy that the behaviour of thede facto forces, which are mainly controlled by Israel, as the Deputy knows, has been atrocious. As the Deputy has emphasised, the issue has to be taken in the context of a United Nations operation. As well as the action taken by the Irish Government the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Defence and the United Nations have been bringing pressure to bear in order to get the matter under control. The matter is difficult and delicate. The onus on the Government and on this House is to make sure by all power available to us that our troops, who are performing a peace keeping function for the United Nations, are protected. The European Community is not a factor in this issue, but I would not disagree with the Deputy that if the voice of the EC, all of whose member states belong to the United Nations, could be added to the pressure on the de facto forces that would be all the better.

As a follow-up to the meeting of the Minister's predecessor on 19 November and the subsequent letter of 4 December written to the Minister for Defence of Israel, would the Minister renew representations to the Israeli Minister for Defence and also seek another meeting with the Israeli Ambassador who came to Ireland last November and to whom the Government and people who met him at the time registered their strong opposition to what was going on?

I shall certainly do what the Deputy has suggested in so far as my own Department are concerned and I shall consult the Minister for Foreign Affairs with regard to his Department.

Thank you, Minister. In relation to the second part of the question, may I take it from the Minister's reply that the Department have not been furnished information by Israel in relation to the killers of the corporal concerned?

Nothing positive.

Would the Minister pursue that matter further also?

That would be part of the pursuit anyway.