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Report into UN battle recommends medal for Jadotville commander but not for 33 other Irish troops

In 1961 a detachment of 158 Irish troops fought a force of 5,000 Katanganese troops while on UN duty in Congo.

Image: Eamonn Farrell

A REPORT HAS found that only the commanding officer of Irish troops in the Siege of Jadotville should receive a medal despite a campaign to honour 33 other soldiers.

The independent review group began examining the case after a lengthy fight by campaigners for recognition for all the troops in the siege.

In 1961 a detachment of 158 Irish troops of the 35th Battalion in Congo-Léopoldville fought a battle with 5,000 Kantanganese troops and mercenaries.

The troops fought as their supplies of ammunition, food and water dwindled over the course of 5 days – none of the Irish fighters were killed.

Several of the soldiers were in their teens, and the event had a huge impact on the men, some of whom said later they suffered from PTSD and depression.

The entire group of soldiers who took part in the siege were awarded a unit citation last year and an accompanying medal, An Bonn Jadotville, in 2017. However, the government hasn’t granted the Distinguished Service Medal that had been recommended to be given to 33 soldiers in the aftermath of the battle.

This morning, the independent report group published its findings and recommended that only Commandant Quinlan, the commanding officer of A Company, 35th Batallion, should receive the DSM.

Bravery

The report examined in more than 500 pages the incident itself, the bravery of the troops, and the aftermath at home during which the troops were badly treated as cowards by some in the Irish establishment and in the broader society. 

A statement from the Department of Defence said that the report outlines the “unsettling aftermath” of Jadotville.

It also sets out the lack of personal welfare supports afforded to the men following events at Jadotville, their period in captivity and upon their return home. 

Devastated

Several people, including Cathal Berry TD, a former army officer and Senator Gerard Craughwell, also a Defence Forces veteran, as well as PDFORRA expressed their disappointment with the news. 

“Very disappointed to read the recommendations of the Jadotville report which was just published at midday today.

“Devastated for the soldiers and families involved, and for all those who campaigned so fiercely over the years,” Berry said. 

Craughwell said he was “absolutely gutted by the outcome”.

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PDFORRA, which represents serving enlisted members of the Defence Forces paid tribute to the veterans of Jadotville. 

“We’re bitterly disappointed with the findings, all those who fought at the Battle of Jadotville should be commended. These were acts of heroism and these men should have been honoured for them. They are all heroes,” it said. 

Simon Coveney, Minister of Defence, paid tribute to the troops who fought in the Congo and said that the report examined some of the “misunderstandings” about the incident.

“I would personally like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and sincerely thank all those that engaged with the Review Group, in particular I would like to pay tribute to the 156 Irishmen who fought so valiantly at the Battle of Jadotville in 1961 and to their families who supported them throughout and in the years since,” he said.  

Apology

The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, apologised on behalf of the Irish Defence Forces to the veterans and their families.

“It is a matter of much regret to me, that the values which we hold so dear, were not evident in the manner in which Óglaigh na hÉireann failed to embrace the veterans of the Battle of Jadotville on their return from service in the Congo.

“On behalf of Óglaigh na hÉireann I would like to apologise to the veterans of ‘A’ Coy, 35 Infantry Battalion and their families. I have full confidence that Óglaigh na hÉireann has learned valuable lessons from this experience and trust it will never be repeated,” he said. 

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