A group of fifth year Galway Community College students visiting Dáil Éireann today plan to meet local TDs in a bid to garner support for their petition asking that medals be awarded to the the officers and NCOs of A Company, 35th Battalion, for their acts of bravery during the 1961 Siege of Jadotville.
The siege, which occurred during the United Nations’ intervention in the Congo-Katanga conflict, saw the small Irish company of 155 soldiers greatly outnumbered. The group managed to hold off thousands of surrounding Katangese troops for six days before they were forced to surrender and were held as prisoners of war.
A campaign to have the soldiers’ heroism formally recognised has gathered pace over the decades, with Jadotville Day, October 25, designated this year as a day to commemorate their bravery. A citation was also awarded to the men of A Company at a ceremony in Custume Barracks, Athlone, earlier this year.
Galway Community College held a tribute evening last month to honour the men of A Company, with retired Comdt Leo Quinlan, son of Jadotville commander Comdt Pat Quinlan, keynote speaker at the event. The night was also attended by two Jadotville veterans, Corporal Tadhg Quinn and Galway native Sergeant Walter Hegarty.
Now a group of fifth year students at the college have petitioned An Taoiseach Enda Kenny asking him to carry out the wishes of the late Comdt Pat Quinlan and award medals to the men who fought in the siege. The group will visit Leinster House this afternoon and, while the Taoiseach is unable to meet the students as he is in Brussels, they plan to meet local TDs and ask them to support their request.
Just 43 of the 155 men of A Company are still alive — Sgt Bill Ready, the first man wounded in the battle, passed away last month.
“In a world obsessed with social media, celebrity and consumerism we want our nation to recognise what these men did in our name while serving with the United Nations,” the students said in a letter to the Taoiseach. “As we approach the 55th anniversary of their arrival home we appreciate that they were, and possibly still are, political and diplomatic reasons for not awarding these medals as requested by Comdt Pat Quinlan. Sometimes these obstacles have to be bypassed by simply doing what is right. We believe that giving the medals this Christmas is the right thing to do.”
The students have also asked to meet Minister of State with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, when he visits Renmore Barracks next week.