December date to honour heroes of Jadotville

A special ceremony is to take place in Custume Barracks on Saturday, December 2 to honour veterans of the Siege of Jadotville.

Minister Paul Kehoe has announced details of the event where surviving members of A Company, 35th Infantry Battalion, and families of the deceased will be awarded the Jadotville Medal.

It follows years of campaigning for the men to be given full recognition for their bravery during the UN peacekeeping operation in the Congo in 1961.

The 150 troops of A Company, drawn mainly from the barracks in Athlone and Mullingar, survived almost a week of attacks from thousands of Katangan rebels and Belgian, French, and Rhodesian mercenaries.

Strafed by aircraft fire, and bombarded by mortars and artillery, the Irish peacekeepers were forced to surrender when water and ammunition supplies ran out. Following their subsequent captivity and release, the actions of A Company went unacknowledged by the state for decades.

Athlone based Senator, Gabrielle McFadden has congratulated all those involved in the campaign for recognition, saying that if it were not for their tenacity, the bravery of A Company would have been forgotten.

“It took great dedication and clarity of focus to keep the campaign for recognition going for over 50 years, but it might never have happened had the veterans and their families not persisted,” Senator McFadden said.

“Everybody is delighted that a date has finally been identified to present individual citations to each of the veterans or their families. I spoke to John Gorman, a Jadotville veteran and one of the people at the forefront of that campaign, and even over the phone you could feel the joy and the pride in his voice. His determination and quiet dignity was always an inspiration to me.”

Councillor Frankie Keena (FF ) also expressed his delight at the decision to honour the veterans. Cllr Keena had been instrumental in the commissioning of a memorial plaque, and in helping organise a ceremony at the square on October 21 to mark Jadotville Day 2017.

“This is a great day for Athlone and indeed long overdue,” Cllr Keena said. “I would urge everyone to come along to show their support.”

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