Coillte wants park memorial to Kildare-born US marine removed

Mother of special forces soldier killed in 2015 helicopter crash in ‘no man’s land’ over move

   Ann Flynn with her daughter Norma Flynn and grandson Tadhg Gleeson at the memorial in Donadea Forest Park to her Kildare-born US marine son Liam Flynn who was killed in 2015. Photograph: Alan Betson

Ann Flynn with her daughter Norma Flynn and grandson Tadhg Gleeson at the memorial in Donadea Forest Park to her Kildare-born US marine son Liam Flynn who was killed in 2015. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

State forestry company Coillte wants to remove a memorial from a Co Kildare park dedicated to a local man killed while serving with the US marines after members of the public complained.

Liam Flynn, who was originally from Clane, Co Kildare, was killed along with 10 others in a US military helicopter crash during a training exercise off the Florida coast in 2015.

Mr Flynn emigrated to the United States in 2002 and enlisted in the marines in 2006. He served four combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq as a special forces marine. His medals and honours include a Purple Heart.

He was 33 years old at the time his death when the Black Hawk helicopter crashed in dense coastal fog. He was married with a daughter. He was buried in Arlington national cemetery near Washington.

‘Marine Raider’

His mother Ann Flynn said the family planted a tree in his memory near their home in Donadea Forest Park, where her son regularly played with friends as a boy growing up in Betaghstown.

They erected a plaque to Mr Flynn that includes the logo of the US marine corps. He is described on the plaque as “Marine Raider”, the name of his special operations regiment.

Coillte said that it did not carry out or give permission for the memorial.

Mrs Flynn said she had offered to “scale back” the memorial but a Coillte manager had told her that the plaque must be taken up.

As a compromise, the manager has offered to install a bench in place of the memorial with Mr Flynn’s name on it, but Mrs Flynn believes the plaque is small and unassuming.

The memorial has drawn complaints from the public. Photograph: Alan Betson
The memorial has drawn complaints from the public. Photograph: Alan Betson

“I like to meet people half way all the time. I didn’t get planning permission from them and they have offered me something else, but at the same time I don’t know if it’s right that they should take the stone away either. I am in a no man’s land with it,” said Mrs Flynn.

She was not told the exact nature of the complaints, made earlier this year, but suspects that it relates to her son’s role fighting for the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The memorial is next to a 9/11 Memorial, a stone replica of the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Centre, inspired by the memory of Sean Tallon, a firefighter whose family emigrated from Donadea.

Terror attack

Mrs Flynn said the Coillte manager drew a distinction between the 9/11 victims, noting that they were victims of a terror attack, and Mr Flynn.

“I said to the man from Coillte that what Liam was doing was preventing what was happening to the people on 9/11,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the company said it was working with the family “to agree on amicable solution”.

“Naturally, due to the sensitivity of the issue involved we are consulting carefully with the family to agree an alternative solution,” she said.

Coillte said that it is the responsibility of local forest managers to decide if memorials were suitable for parks managed by them and that some are installed without Coillte knowing or consenting.

Local Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless said he was disappointed that issue had been taken with the memorial to a local man who, he said, had a distinction for services abroad.

“There is nothing inappropriate about it. He died tragically; he didn’t die in combat. Anybody that falls in any site around the globe is entitled to be honoured at home,” said Mr Lawless.

“He is missed and held in high regard by the people who knew him back home.”