Road should have been cleared of mines, says Shatter

DEFENCE Minister Alan Shatter has said it “was absolutely clear” the road where the men died should have been cleared of booby traps before being used to source stones to fortify bases.

He said that did not occur and the state was sorry.

“Unfortunately, we can never undo what happened and what should not have happened. As the report shows, the deaths of Corporal Armstrong and Privates Heneghan and Walsh could and should have been avoided.

“For that, on behalf of the state, I apologise wholeheartedly to their families, their loved ones and their comrades,” he said.

Mr Shatter said there should always be transparency and things are done very differently today than what was practiced in 1989.

The minister met with the families, to deliver the report, at the national emergency centre in the Department of Agriculture yesterday. He said he hoped the work he commissioned Frank Callanan to carry out would bring a sense of closure for the relatives of the soldiers.

He was joined at the briefing by Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sean McCann, who apologised on behalf of the army for not having enough protection in place for the soldiers with the 64th battalion.

“The Callanan report has concluded that the defence forces systems in place at that time to counter the improvised explosive device (IED) threat were not robust enough to prevent this tragedy. For that, I wholeheartedly and unreservedly apologise,” he said.

The minister said from the moment the army became aware of the potentially devastating evidence of Commandant Ray Lane, that the threat level had not been fully acted on, it passed this information to the department. He said his officials acted on this as quickly as was possible and established the review of Mr Callanan.

Mr Shatter rejected suggestions that even if its officers acted properly on the morning of the blast, the army had suppressed information since then.

He said he did not know when the army first learned of the Commandant Ray Lane’s evidence but it was acted on immediately when it reached the department.

The minister said the terms of reference were designed to get the maximum insight into the incident and the failures at that time, and had not precluded finding individuals responsible if Mr Callanan saw fit.

Mr Shatter said the report had lessons also for UN peacekeeping missions and he expected a copy of it to be forwarded to the UN.

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