Irish veterans of Siege of Jadotville to receive medals

Announcement is the culmination of decades-long campaign

 Irish Defence Forces personnel  in Jadotville are to be awarded medals. Photograph: Defence Forces Archive

Irish Defence Forces personnel in Jadotville are to be awarded medals. Photograph: Defence Forces Archive

 

Members of the 35th Infantry Battalion, who fought at the Siege of Jadotville in1961 are to be awarded medals, it has been announced.

The announcement is the culmination of a long campaign to honour the men of A Company who defended a United Nations outpost for five days in the face of an assault by up 5,000 mercenaries and rebels in the state of Katanga in the Congo in 1961.

The Irish company, comprising 158 soldiers, were part of a UN peacekeeping force in the country.

It suffered no fatalities and inflicted heavy losses on the attackers before being forced to surrender when supplies ran out.

The men were held as prisoners by Katangese rebels until their release was negotiated a month later.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and Minister of State for Defence, Paul Kehoe announced on Tuesday that the surviving members of the company and the next of kin of deceased members will receive “full and due recognition in honour of their courageous actions.”

“I am very pleased to announce this decision to award medals to the men of “A” Company. This fully recognises their bravery and courage during the unique circumstances of the Siege of Jadotville,” Mr Kenny said in one of his last official acts before stepping down as Taoiseach.

“The UN peacekeeping operation in the Congo was the first time the UN deployed a significant military force and it was also one of Ireland’s earliest UN peacekeeping operations.

“I want to take the opportunity to also recall the contribution of all the members of the Defence Forces who served over the course of this Mission.”

It has yet to be decided what medals will be awarded or when the ceremony will take place.

“Given the process required, this will take some time,” a Department of Defence Spokesman said.

Last year A Company was awarded a unit citation for its collective role in the siege.

The United Nations Operation in Congo was the first peacekeeping mission in which significant numbers of Irish soldiers took part.

A total of 6,000 Irish soldiers served in the Congo from 1960 until 1964.