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Saturday 3 December 2016

Remembering lost soldier who gave his life for peace

Published 12/09/2010 | 05:00

Trooper Pat Mullins from Kilbehenny on the Cork-Limerick border was killed sometime around September 14, 1961, when his patrol was ambushed in the city of Elisabethville in the Congo's breakaway Katanga province.

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Nearly 50 years on, he is still listed by the Irish Defence Forces as "Missing in Action", but he remains a potent symbol of Ireland's commitment to peacekeeping on behalf of the United Nations.

Now, a remarkable new book, written by journalist and author Ralph Riegel and Congo veteran John O'Mahony, tells the remarkable tale of the Elisabetheville ambush and the confusion and contradiction about how Trooper Mullins lost his life.

Pat Mullins was just 18-years-old when he was killed after a gun battle in which he heroically tried to protect a dying colleague. The new book, Missing in Action -- The 50-year Search for Ireland's Missing Soldier, goes some way to explaining what happened.

The Irish patrol drove right into a carefully planned trap set by Katangan mercenaries.

Tpr Mullins and his friend, Cpl Michael Nolan, were knocked unconscious by a Katangan anti-tank rocket.

Cpl Nolan suffered serious shrapnel injuries and, when Tpr Mullins regained consciousness over an hour later, it is believed he managed to re-start the armoured car and drive it in a desperate bid to get to the medics.

He never made it back to the sanctuary of the Irish base, dying following a gun battle in which he single-handedly held off an entire Katangan platoon. There is a strong possibility that he was killed after running out of ammunition.

Cpl Nolan's body was later recovered from a graveyard outside Elisabethville. But no trace of Pat Mullins's body was ever found.

Together with Private Kevin Joyce from Galway, who was kidnapped and killed in the Lebanon in 1981, they are the only Irish soldiers to remain Missing in Action from Ireland's UN missions.

Sunday Independent

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