Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Defence
36. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will consider commencing a process of engagement with key stakeholders to address the continuing concerns of Jadotville soldiers and their families to appropriately acknowledge the outstanding bravery of these Irish soldiers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23716/22]
The siege of Jadotville was a prominent event that occurred during Ireland's peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961 where "A" Company, 35th Infantry Battalion, came under attack. From the 13th to the 17th September the men of “A” Company endured almost continuous attack. At the end of the Siege, the men were taken into captivity until finally released on the 25th October 1961.
The issue of awarding of Military Medals for Gallantry (MMG) and Distinguished Service Medals (DSMs) to a number of personnel who served in Jadotville in September 1961 has been considered on a number of occasions over the years and a range of actions have taken place to give due recognition to the courage and bravery of all the members of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion who were stationed in Jadotville in 1961. The range of actions taken to date to recognise the bravery of the men stationed in Jadotville in 1961 include:
- A presentation of scrolls to "A" Company in 2006.
- Portraits of Lt Col McNamee (35th Battalion Commander) and Comdt Quinlan (Company Commander “A” Company) were commissioned in 2006.
- In July of 2010 the 50th anniversary of the first deployment to the Congo was commemorated in a highly publicised and well attended event in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. A Congo photographic book was also produced for the occasion; a section of which was dedicated to the events at Jadotville in 1961.
- A nominal roll of “A” Company, printed in copper, was affixed to the monument in Costume Barracks and was unveiled as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Jadotville affair in September 2011.
- On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the Siege of Jadotville, it was decided to issue a Unit Citation to honour the collective actions and bravery of the men of “A” Company. This was the first time a Unit Citation was awarded within the Defence Forces.
- On 13th June 2017, the Government decided, to award a medal known as “An Bonn Jadotville” or “The Jadotville Medal” to each member of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and to the family representatives of deceased members to give full and due recognition in honour of their courageous actions at the Siege of Jadotville. This medal presentation ceremony took place in Custume Barracks, Athlone on 2nd December 2017. It is from Custume Barracks that “A” Company assembled in advance of their fateful deployment to the Congo. The “An Bonn Jadotville” or “The Jadotville Medal” has the word “Jadotville” depicted on the clasp of the medal and the medal ribbon represents a combination of an Irish tricolour and the United Nations Operation in Congo (ONUC) mission medal. The medal depicts a warrior of the ancient Fianna with sword and shield. To the left is a reproduction of the Irish overseas flash. Surrounding the central motif are the words “Cosaint Chalma” (Valiant Defence) and “Misneach” (Courage). The reverse contains a unique unit identification representing A Coy, 35 Cathlan Eireannach (Irish Battalion).
Notwithstanding the actions that have been taken to date to recognise and honour the valiant actions and bravery of all of the men stationed at Jadotville sixty years ago, an Independent Review Group (IRG) was established to examine and report on matters relating to recommendations for military medals relating to events at Jadotville. The Group reported in July 2021.
The report, which was published in full, is substantial and makes a number of recommendations in respect of the issue of award of medals, honouring the role of families and the support they provided to veterans and in respect of veterans affairs.
The deeply unsettling aftermath of Jadotville is detailed in the report as is the lack of personal welfare supports afforded to the men following events at Jadotville, their period in captivity and upon their return home. I have apologised to veterans and to their families on behalf of the State and the Government to the men of ‘A’ Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and to their families for the lack of necessary supports or deserved recognition of their valiant service on their return from the Congo and for the many issues that arose as a result, some of which had tragic consequences. I have also acknowledged that the lack of supports in place at that time is extremely regrettable. There have been great steps in the intervening years to support Defence Forces personnel, their families and veterans through the work of the Defence Forces personnel support services.
A judicial review is under way at present regarding a recommendation of the IRG report relating to the convening of a Military Board to consider the award of medals. Given that the matter is now before the Courts, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the report at this time.
I am satisfied, however, that the matter has been addressed comprehensively and there are no plans to commence a process of further engagement.