On the 18th of November 2023, a monument was unveiled in the Marian Shrine across from St Michael’s Church in Athy. The monument was for four members of the Irish Defence Forces who tragically died in a road accident in Lebanon, while serving as United Nations Peacekeepers on the 14th February 2000. They were Privates Declan Deere (21), Jonathan Murphy (21), Brendan Fitzpatrick (19) and Matthew ’John’ Lawlor (23).
The four soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Battalion were serving overseas with ‘B’ Company, 86th Infantry Battalion. They were just 20 months in the Defence Forces and were heading away on some R&R when they were killed in the St. Valentine’s Day accident. The road traffic accident happened when a minibus they were travelling in on the way to Beirut airport overturned on an oil slick – five other soldiers were injured in the accident.
The four soldiers were buried with full military honours in their home towns: Jonathan Murphy and Declan Deere in a joint service at Athy, Co Kildare. Matthew ‘John’ Lawlor was buried in Nurney and Brendan Fitzpatrick in Raheen, Co Laois.
At the time of their deaths, the Irish Independent quoted the then Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lt General David Stapleton as saying, “To lose them now in such tragic circumstances is even worse than if we had lost them in combat – It doesn’t get any easier losing young soldiers.”
The St Michael’s Branch (Athy) of ONE erected the monument in Athy’s Marian Shrine and was funded by Kildare County Council and Francis Harrigan, a local physiotherapist and a great supporter of ONE and our charitable objectives.
ONE’s St Michael’s Branch Chairperson Kevin Carton said, “This Monument has been two years in the making and I would like to thank Councillor Mark Leigh for all his assistance in securing funding from Kildare County Council.
A special thanks also to our local physiotherapist Francis Harrigan for all his fundraising for this monument, and on many other occasions.
I want to thank Kildare County Council and Athy Municipal District Council, Clifford Maher of Memorial Stone Works and members of St Michaels Branch of ONE. Many thanks to all those who turned out including many veterans and colleagues of those who tragically died on the 14th February 2000.”
Cllr Mark Leigh said, “A lovely service today hosted by ONE’s St Michael’s Branch (Athy) at the Marian Shrine for Privates Declan Deere, Jonathan Murphy, Brendan Fitzpatrick and Matthew ‘John’ Lawlor.”
Ar dheis Dé go Raibh a nAnam – May their souls be at God’s right hand.
Cuimhnímis – Remember Those Who Served
Photo album here: https://bit.ly/49IJDQs
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