On Tuesday this week and after more than 55 years of waiting the Government made a decision to honour the heroes of ‘A’ Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and its attachments at the Battle of Jadotville.
Jadotville was an event that occurred during Ireland’s peacekeeping mission in the Congo in 1961. ‘A’ Company of the 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on September 3. On the morning of September 13, the Company came under attack from a force supporting the breakaway province of Katanga.
Despite their courageous resistance and the efforts of 35 Infantry Battalion HQ to provide assistance, ‘A’ Company was taken into captivity on September 17, and remained there until released in late October.
On the 55th anniversary of the siege last year, Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Deputy Paul Kehoe, presented a Unit Citation to the Company recognising their bravery. However, many people felt this did not go far enough, leading to Tuesday’s announcement that each man will receive a medal of bravery.
Athlone-based Senator, Gabrielle McFadden, who has been at the forefront of the campaign for individual recognition, thanked outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny for his role in honouring the soldiers.
“I am delighted that the campaign to honour these men has finally borne fruit,” Senator McFadden said. “While the unit citation was a recognition of their collective heroism and professional performance, I believed all along that each of them deserved individual acknowledgement.”
The news has also been welcomed by Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, who said it is long overdue.
“I am saddened by the fact that so many of the soldiers of ‘A’ Company of the 35th Infantry Battalion have since passed on and are not here with us today for this important announcement,” Minister Moran said.
“It has always been my strongly held view that the bravery of the soldiers some 56 years after they were attacked while on United Nations duty should have been recognised many decades ago. Nevertheless, I have pressed upon Minister Kehoe since being elected to the Dáil that the mindset of those who delayed the recognition of the soldiers had to change.”