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Jadotville: Injunction sought against report's recommendation to award medal to just one survivor

The legal action challenges the decision not to award all Jadotville men military honours.

Veterans at a 2017 event.
Veterans at a 2017 event.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

AN INJUNCTION IS being sought against a recommendation in an independent report, commissioned by the Department of Defence, which recommended against awarding medals to all Jadotville survivors.

The report recommended that just one survivor receive a medal. This decision is now being challenged, along with other factors including how military medals are awarded.

The independent review group which issued the report was set up in 2020 by Minister Simon Coveney under the auspices of the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Admiral Mark Mellet.

It came on foot of years of appeals for the Distinguished Services Medal (DSM) to be awarded to 34 Jadotville survivors, as had been recommended by their commander over six decades ago.

The siege of Jadotville took place in the Congo in September 1961. During the siege, 155 Irish peacekeepers from ‘A’ Company – who had no battle experience – held out for five days against more than 3,000 heavily armed mercenaries and local militias. 

All of ‘A’ Company survived, though there were 300 fatalities and 750 wounded on the other side.

The men were made prisoners of war for six weeks after negotiating a ceasefire agreement. After they came home to Ireland, many reported suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and moral injury, resulting in depression and mental ill health. Several of the survivors later died by suicide. 

Following the siege, 34 men were recommended for Distinguished Service Medals (DSM) by their leader, Colonel Pat Quinlan. None of the medals were awarded at the time. Just eight of the survivors are still living, and Colonel Quinlan’s son Commandant Leo Quinlan is among those who has been fighting for survivors to be awarded the MMG/DSMs. 

The entire group of soldiers who took part in the siege were awarded a unit citation and an accompanying medal, An Bonn Jadotville, in 2017.

However, the government hasn’t granted the specific medals that had been recommended by Colonel Quinlan to the 34 soldiers in the aftermath of the battle.

The independent review group recommended in its report that of the Jadotville men, just Colonel Pat Quinlan should receive the DSM, the Irish Times reported in July.

However, this legal action would seek to prevent the recommendations of the report taking place. 

Commandant Leo Quinlan, the son of commanding officer Colonel Pat Quinlan, and Senator Gerard Craughwell have both signed affidavits related to the injunction.

In a statement, Leo Quinlan told The Journal

I am saddened that this action had to be taken.  I had hoped that the Army would have done the right thing and awarded the medals that the men of Jadotville deserved and as recommended by their Company Commander.

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Senator Craughwell said last night: “It is a matter of regret that we have been forced to challenge the report of the Independent Review Group into the actions at Jadotville.” A Go Fund Me has been set up to support the men’s legal action. 

The pair have both signed the verifying affidavit needed to bring about the judicial review, which the injunction would take place under.

The details of the application judicial review were heard in court this morning. 

In documents related to the application, it is said that the applicants questioned whether a military board had been established to consider the award of medals for Jadotville, and whether they could make submissions to any such board. They received a “holding response”, they said.

The documents refer to the case as being “unique in Irish military history”.

The court papers state that: “The men and officers of A Company were treated appallingly on their return to Ireland. Notwithstanding their heroic efforts in the field, they were shunned and made believe that their efforts had brought shame on the Irish Defence Forces.”

In 2016 a movie called The Siege of Jadotville, starring Jamie Dornan, was released on Netflix.

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