herald

Monday 21 January 2019

Gerry O'Carroll: Under fire, the idiots who left our army stranded

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "One mistake can be tragedy, but two is a fiasco".

I'm referring to an embarrassing blunder by the Department of Defence, that's surfaced this week.

It concerns a 90-strong military group, who were due to be 'pathfinders' ahead of the arrival of a 440-strong battalion due to depart for Lebanon on June 23.

But now this group has been left stranded on these shores -- all down to a cringe-inducing gaffe.

On the eve of their departure, the whole operation had to be cancelled because the air company, Air Partner, who had been hired to take the advance party, had no licence to take their weapons.

I'm sorry, but nobody can be expected to keep the peace in Lebanon with a uniform and some goodwill.

This is a serious embarrassment for the Department of Defence.

But, unbelievably, the very same debacle happened in September 2008, when the Irish peacekeepers were due to take up their post in Chad with the very same transport company.



Zeal

Once again, the appropriate licences for the transport of firearms was not secured. Miscommunication within the military was blamed for that.

This latest cock-up tarnishes the image of our army at home and abroad.

In an internal report on the Chad incident, one of the most colourful phrases used to excuse the monumental blunder was "an excess of zeal".

I wonder what word or turn of phrase they'll ascribed to this latest fiasco, and whether it will be as polite.

The Department had been aware of this deployment to Lebanon for a year. One would have thought after the Chad incident, we would not see a repetition of this. At least they can't blame the NCOs for this.

I have the highest respect for Irish peacekeepers who are known across the world for their professionalism.

I know this first-hand as I had the privilege of serving alongside them in Lebanon for a number of months in 1983.

Incidents like this tarnish the reputation of this proud institution -- let's hope it stops once and for all.

But when it comes to civil servant mandarins, God knows what'll happen next time.

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