Experts to review case of medals for Jadotville veterans

ireland
Experts To Review Case Of Medals For Jadotville Veterans Experts To Review Case Of Medals For Jadotville Veterans
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Paul Hosford

An independent review into gallantry shown by Irish soldiers at the siege of Jadotville has been widely welcomed.

The siege, which took place in 1961, saw members of A Company, 35th Battalion of the Irish Army ONUC contingent attacked by Katangese Gendarmerie during the Congo Crisis.

The battle raged from September 13th to 17th and the 155 Irish troops, under the command of Commandant Pat Quinlan, although heavily outnumbered, managed to kill around 300 of the enemy and wounded an estimated 1,000 more — with no losses themselves.

However, a long-standing rule had prohibited the men from being awarded medals because boards in 1962 and 1965 had decided against it.

However, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney says that an independent board will review the issue.

He told the Seanad late on Wednesday that he hoped "the families watching get some solace from the fact that the Seanad has decided to prioritise this debate".

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While the board will not be a medal review board, he said, it will be "independent and open-minded".

There is a great deal of emotion around the Jadotville case, and rightly so.

"It was something for us all, but in particular those linked to the Defence Forces, to be very proud of.

"The men who served there are responsible for extraordinary service to peace keeping and to Ireland in what was an incredibly complex, challenging and difficult theatre of conflict.

"Governments, at different times and with different ministers, have tried to recognise that in different ways. The conversation continues.

"That is why I asked the Chief of Staff and he has responded to me in a constructive way with a process that we believe is appropriate.

"I do think we need to be careful, however. We cannot move to a situation where politicians decide who get medals and what kind of medals they get in relation to service at home or abroad.

At a special screening of The Siege of Jadotville in 2016, veteran of the siege Jimie Taheny from Roscommon shows his medals to Sean Paul (7) from Cheery Orchard. Picture Andres Poveda / Netflix

"This must be a recommendation that comes from the military themselves — that is how this works — otherwise we move into an area of trying to please people politically.

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"I would like to take this opportunity to recall the contribution of all the men and women of the Defence Forces who have been deployed on missions in the cause of peace overseas.

"They are not only soldiers, they are ambassadors too, for Ireland, what we stand for, our commitment to peace and peace management abroad."

Jadotville veteran Noel Carey said that he hoped the board would allow he and his colleagues to tell their stories.

I hope we the veterans will get a chance to give our story to the board when the time comes.

"This was totally denied to us when we came back in December 1961 to a situation where nobody knew this happened."

Mr Carey told RTÉ radio that there had been "efforts by the Defence Force to airbrush us out of the history of the army".

Labour senator Mark Wall said that the country owes the men for their bravery.

“We owe these men a lot, their bravery is now our country’s bravery, we must never forget what they achieved for this state and the service they gave to the United Nations.

"I will await the outcome of the expert group and would encourage those involved, their families, and anybody who has information on this historic Irish military defence to bring it forward to the minister so that it might form part of the expert group's review."

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