Friday 19 January 2018

'Courage and valiant defence': The Irish heroes of Jadotville honoured

A member of the defence forces holds the medals at Custume Barracks, Athlone, where the presentation of An Bonn Jadotville, to the veterans and relatives of those who served A Company 35th Infantry Battalion who fought at the Battle of Jadotville in September 1961. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A member of the defence forces holds the medals at Custume Barracks, Athlone, where the presentation of An Bonn Jadotville, to the veterans and relatives of those who served A Company 35th Infantry Battalion who fought at the Battle of Jadotville in September 1961. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Recognition: Thomas Cunningham, from Mullingar, receives his medal from Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe (right) and Defence Forces chief of staff Mark Mellett at Custume Barracks, Athlone, during the presentation of An Bonn Jadotville to the veterans and relatives of those who fought at the Battle of Jadotville in 1961. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

The nation yesterday honoured the brave men of the Siege of Jadotville for their courage, at a special ceremony in Custume Barracks in Athlone.

Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe presented a special medal to members of the 'A Company', and the families of the deceased members of the 35th Infantry Battalion who took part in the military operation more than 50 years ago in September 1961.

Thomas Cunningham, from Mullingar, waits to receive his medal at Custume Barracks: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Thomas Cunningham, from Mullingar, waits to receive his medal at Custume Barracks: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Hollywood actor Jamie Dornan and the cast of Netflix movie The Siege of Jadotville expressed delight that the veterans of the military action had finally been awarded medals for their bravery and courage, saying the men showed us all "a different type of Irish hero".

Yesterday as the soldiers and families gathered in Athlone for the medal ceremony, the cast and crew released a statement saying they felt privileged to have played a small part in the telling of their story.

"Comrades who left this island to do their duty in a foreign land - it was their courage, their hidden courage, their unacknowledged courage that inspired all of us," the cast and crew said.

"The soldiers who are no longer with us are reminders that A Company and their families have lived under a disgraceful cloud. Today, 56 years later, they have finally received the recognition they deserve. Thank you and congratulations."

A view of the medals at Custume Barracks, Athlone, where the presentation of An Bonn Jadotville (The Jadotville Medal), to the veterans and relatives of those who served A Company 35th Infantry Battalion who fought at the Battle of Jadotville in September 1961. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A view of the medals at Custume Barracks, Athlone, where the presentation of An Bonn Jadotville (The Jadotville Medal), to the veterans and relatives of those who served A Company 35th Infantry Battalion who fought at the Battle of Jadotville in September 1961. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The siege of Jadotville occurred during Ireland's peacekeeping mission in the Congo in 1961. The 158 Irish soldiers fought for their lives against 5,000 Kantanganese troops, while their supplies of ammunition, food and water dwindled over five days.

At the ceremony, Minister Kehoe said: "The retelling of the events at Jadotville does not and cannot reflect the incredible reality of what happened during the siege and its aftermath."

Highlighting the medal's design, Minister Kehoe said: "The words state 'cosaint chalma' which means 'valiant defence' and 'misneach' meaning 'courage'."

The word 'Jadotville' is depicted on the clasp and the medal ribbon represents a mix of the Irish tricolour and the United Nations Operation in Congo mission medal.

Sunday Independent

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