Veterans of the 1961 Siege of Jadotville were awarded medals for their bravery at a ceremony in Custume Barracks on Saturday, December 2. The ceremony followed years of campaigning by veterans for recognition.
Minister of State for Defence, Paul Kehoe, awarded An Bonn Jadotville (The Jadotville Medal ) to surviving members of A Company, 35th Infantry Battalion, and families of the deceased.
Speaking at the event, Minister Kehoe addressed the surviving veterans: "The retelling of the events at Jadotville does not and cannot reflect the incredible reality of what happened during the siege and its aftermath. It can only briefly suggest the courage you showed in your willingness to act and the bravery displayed in your every actions.
"I feel truly privileged to have met you and to have talked to you about your experiences and the experiences of your loved ones," he added.
Bearing the words "cosaint chalma" (valiant defence ) and "misneach" (courage ), the medal recognises the bravery of the Irish troops who fought at Jadotville during a United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Congo.
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. No Irish soldiers died.
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.
In 2016, the government decided to finally acknowledge the Jadotville troops' actions, issuing citations and designating October 25 - the day the veterans were released from captivity - as Jadotville Day, to be marked annually.
This year, Jadotville Day was celebrated in Athlone. A parade of honour, made up of Defence Forces veterans of all services, marched to John Count McCormack Square where a plaque was unveiled. The unveiling was followed by a wreath laying ceremony.