Longford-Westmeath Independent Deputy, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, has met Taoiseach Enda Kenny concerning the honouring of soldiers who fought in the Siege of Jadotville, the majority of whom were from Custume Barracks in Athlone.
Some 157 men from ‘A’ Company of the Irish 35th Battalion were deployed to a mining town called Jadotville in the rebel-held province of Katanga in the Congo in September, 1961, to protect its Belgian inhabitants.
The Irish positions were attacked while the main body of troops were attending mass parade and over the next six days held out against an overwhelming force of 3,000 rebels. It was only when ammunition, food, and water were exhausted that they were left with no alternative but to enter ceasefire negotiations.
The Independent Alliance TD is seeking formal recognition of the sacrifices made by those who survived the six-day siege and later imprisonment while on UN duty in the Congo.
Deputy Moran said he has met with surviving members of ‘A’ Company and their relatives and friends, and fully understands “the hurt and pain that they feel”, 55 years later, at not having received a medal or a certificate in recognition of their efforts.
“The members of ‘A’ Company, many of whom were in their teens, showed tremendous courage and bravery and the time is long overdue that these men are personally honoured,” he said. “Regretfully, many of these men have gone to their graves without their valour being recognised, but for their families it is equally important that we recognise the heroic courage of their loved ones.”
“As has been pointed out, their commanding officer, Comdt Pat Quinlan, later entered very difficult and tense ceasefire negotiations without recourse to accurate information or direction from higher authority. These soldiers put their lives on the line in very fraught and difficult circumstances and it is wrong that they haven’t got any formal recognition, not a medal or even a certificate.
“The international spotlight will be placed on the siege this week with the release of a movie about the events. I think now would be an appropriate time to finally honour the men from the siege of Jadotville.”