Irish battalion honoured for Jadotville bravery

Presidential Unit Citation presented to soldiers and next of kin in Athlone

 

Soldiers from the Irish battalion who fought at the Siege of Jadotville were honoured on Saturday for their bravery during the 1961 UN intervention in Central Africa.

The award of a Presidential Unit Citation was presented on Saturday afternoon at Custume Barracks in Athlone to the 35th Battalion ‘A’ company in recognition of the achievement of the 150 soldiers who fought against an estimated 3,000 enemy troops.

Minister of State with responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe presented a copy of the citations to each member or next of kin of the unit while wreaths were laid in memory of the deceased members of the company.

The event formally recognised the bravery of the Irish soldiers 55 years after they were attacked by troops loyal to the Katangese prime minister Moise Tshombe.

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Longford/Westmeath TD Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran said a Unit Citation was a formal honour reserved for “extraordinary heroism in action against armed enemy” and described it as “fitting recognition for the gallantry displayed by Lt Col (Pat) Quinlan and his men at Jadotville”.

“I sincerely hope that this honour will finally bring some comfort to the wives, children and grandchildren of the deceased soldiers of ‘A’ Company, together with the remaining 60 veterans waiting for the right thing to be done by them after 55 years,” said Mr Moran.

“Obtaining formal recognition has been an emotive issue for decades and upon entering Government, I made it clear that this was a matter that I wanted resolved and could no longer be ignored. I strongly felt that this was a grievous wrong by successive governments that needed to put right.”

The recognition of the Irish battalion coincides with the release of The Siege of Jadotville starring northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan which will receive a limited theatrical release in Ireland and Britain from September 19th.

The film explains how, as part of an action supervised by a young Conor Cruise O’Brien, then special representative to the secretary general of the UN, a force led by Cdt Quinlan defended the post at Jadotville from sustained attack by troops and mercenaries loyal to the Katangese prime minister Moise Tshombe.

Following their eventual surrender, the Irish soldiers received no formal acknowledgement for their bravery.