By PRO IUNVA
In this article, we mark the 40th anniversary of one of the most horrific events in the history of DF peace support operations. This occurred during the handover of 51 Inf Bn to 52 Inf Bn in Oct 1982. This article is about the three victims, it is NOT about the murderer, it is best that he be left to his God and to his conscience.
At approximately 2030 hours local time on Wednesday 27 Oct 1982, a garbled radio message was received at HQ A Coy at As Sultaniyah from the checkpoint at Tibnine Bridge 6-23A that the post was under fire. The checkpoint was being manned by four personnel, a Cpl and three Ptes. Reinforcements were dispatched immediately and on arrival they found one Cpl and two Ptes were dead and their bodies were lying against the blockhouse of the checkpoint, they had been shot at close range. The other Pte was holding two male Lebanese civilians at gunpoint; the civilians’s car was at the checkpoint. The area was cordoned off and patrols searched the immediate area, the search was assisted by illuminating flares from the 120 mm Hy Mors. The searches continued to first light and into the following day without results. The Lebanese Internal Security Force interrogated the two civilians and concluded that they had arrived after the killings and were not involved, it was later confirmed that the two men were innocent of involvement in the killings.
The news of the killings shocked the nation and over the following days and weeks as the full story stated to emerge, a team from An Garda Síochána was sent to Lebanon to assist in the investigation. The three young peacekeepers had been slain by a fellow soldier; he was later convicted by a General Court Martial of the murders of the three men. He was given a dishonourable discharge from the DF and was sentenced to life in prison following a thirty six day long trial.
The three casualties were Pte Peter Burke (20) A Coy 51 Inf Bn, Cpl Gregory (Gary) Morrow (20) and Pte Thomas (Tommy) Murphy (19) – both A Coy, 52 Inf Bn.
Pte Peter Burke was born on 3 Jul 1962 and he was from Suir Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin. He was the oldest of five children of Noel and Mary Burke, he had two brothers Ronald (18) and Richard (15), two sisters Margaret (13) and Tamara (5). He was engaged to be married to his fiancée Martina and their wedding was fixed for Jul 1983. He joined the DF in 1980 and his parent unit was 5 Inf Bn, Collins Bks, Dublin. He was finishing his tour of duty and was due to rotate home within a week.
Cpl Gregory Morrow was born on 28 Jan 1963; he was from Lurgan, Co Armagh. He married his wife, Collette, in Harold’s Cross Church on 28 Mar 1982, seven months before his death, and they lived at Leinster Rd, Rathmines, Dublin. His parents were Sean and Mary Morrow. He joined the DF in 1979 and is parent unit was 2 Inf Bn, Cathal Brugha Bks, Dublin. He arrived in Lebanon one week before he was murdered.
Pte Thomas Murphy was born on 4 Oct 1963, he was from Claremont Court, Glasnevin, Dublin. His mother was Mrs Brigid White and his sister was Helena Murphy. He joined the DF in 1980 and his parent unit was 2 Inf Bn, Cathal Brugha Bks, Dublin. Like Cpl Morrow, he had arrived in Lebanon one week before he was murdered.
On 28 Oct, the bodies were taken to the American University Hospital in Beirut for autopsies.
On Thursday 4 Nov, the bodies were flown home, Cpl Morrow and Pte Murphy were taken to the Church of the Sacred Heart Arbour Hill, Pte Burke was taken to Mary Immaculate Church in Inchicore.
On Friday 5 Nov, the Requiem Mass for Pte Peter Burke was celebrated in Inchicore by Fr. James Nolan OMI. President Hillery was represented by his ADC Comdt Michael Lucey, military mourners included the QMG, Maj Gen John Gallagher. Pte Burke was buried at Palmerstown Cemetery.
The Requiem Mass for Cpl Gregory Morrow and Pte Thomas Murphy was celebrated at Arbour Hill and the attendance included President Patrick Hillery and his Senior ADC Col Leo Buckley, An Taoiseach was represented by his ADC, Comdt Christopher Leaney, Minister for Defence Patrick Power, COS Lieut Gen Louis Hogan, AG Maj Gen Liam Prendergast and the Irish Ambassador to Lebanon Gearóid Ó Cléirigh. The Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Most Rev Dr. James Kavanagh officiated at the mass, the chief celebrant was Fr. Patrick Beslin CF Cathal Brugha Bks and he was assisted by Fr. Edward Dunne CF and Fr. Raymond Field CF Collins Bks.
Pte Murphy was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. Cpl Morrow’s coffin was taken to Aiken Bks Dundalk for final military honours before he was taken to his native Lurgan for burial at St Colman’s Cemetery.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha