Monument unveiled to soldier who went missing in Lebanon
Pte Caomhán Seoighe from Inis Óirr disappeared in April 1981 while on UN mission
A solider takes a moment to remember Private Caomhán Seoighe time before the unveiling of a memorial in his memory today on Inis Oírr on Friday. Pte Seoighe was kidnapped in 1981 in the Lebanon aged 20. His remains were never recovered. Photograph: Cormac Coyne.
A volley of shots are fired during the at the commemoration ceremony on Friday on Inis Óirr for Private Caomhán Seoighe. Photograph: Eamon Ward.
Former soldier and Inis Oírr resident Tómas Ó Conghaile at a commemoration ceremony for Private Caomhán Seoighe. Photograph: Eamon Ward.
Mass takes place in Teampall Chaomhán, Inis Óirr on Friday as part of the commemoration Ceremony for Private Caomhán Seoighe. Photograph: Eamon Ward.
Thousands of kilometres from where he disappeared, a lone Aran island soldier has been remembered on home sands of Inis Oírr with a monument dedicated to his name.
Pte Seoighe of 1 Cathlán Coiste and the 48th infantry battalion was just short of his 21st birthday, and was within a week of finishing a six month tour of duty with the UN Interim Force in the Lebanon (UNIFIL) when his observation post in an area known as the “Iron Triangle” near the village of Dayr Ntar came under attack.
With him was Pte Hugh Doherty who had only just arrived out with the 49th Battalion. Pte Doherty was later found dead from gunshot wounds, and the Army believes Pte Seoighe was killed a short time after his abduction.
Several inquiries were carried out, including reports by the UN and by the Defence Forces, and last year Vanessa Nee, sister of the late Pte Doherty, called for a fresh inquiry and an apology into her brother’s death.
“Wednesday May 27th would have been Caomhán’s 55th birthday,” Mr Coveney said on the island on Friday, after a Mass led by Fr John Keane in Teampall Chaomhán, the church sharing Pte Seoighe’s name.
“Fáilte abhaile, a Chaomháin, go dti gainimh Inis Oírr,” Fr Keane said in his homily, while islanders gathered on the hill outside the church to pay their respects.
“I hope that this memorial goes some way to helping and supporting Caomhán’s family in their loss,” Mr Coveney said, extending his sympathies to Pte Seoighe’s siblings, Máíre, Seán, Pádraic, Coley and Mikey.
Pte Seoighe was the youngest of a family of six. Some 100 members of the Defence Forces participated in the ceremony, which included a guard of honour, and both Mr Coveney and Máíre Seoighe unveiled the memorial stone, designed and carved by Alexandra Morosco and Tom Little.
After a rendition of the Piper’s lament, a wreath was laid by Seán Seoighe and Defence Forces chief of staff Lieut-Gen Conor O’Boyle.
Mr Coveney paid tribute to the selflessness of Irish peacekeepers serving under the blue flag of the UN, who “have helped save the lives of countless numbers of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world”.
“Tragically, in saving those lives too many of our finest young people, like Pte Seoighe, have lost their own,” he said.
Caomhán Seoighe was just 19 years of age when he joined the Defence Forces on June 26th, 1979 and was stationed in Dún Ui Mhaoilíosa Barracks, Renmore, Galway. He volunteered for service overseas in October 1980, and left Ireland for the Lebanon in November of that year.