The Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, T.D., has today 15 July 2021, welcomed the publication of the report prepared by the Independent Review Group (IRG) on Jadotville.
Minister Coveney on receipt of the report stated “I would personally like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and sincerely thank all those that engaged with the Review Group, in particular I would like to pay tribute to the 156 Irishmen who fought so valiantly at the Battle of Jadotville in 1961 and to their families who supported them throughout and in the years since”.
The substantial report (of over 500 pages) makes a number of recommendations. In relation to the possible awards of medals, the IRG, having identified primary source evidence, recommends that Comdt. Pat Quinlan, Company Commander, ‘A’ Company, should be considered for a posthumous award of the Distinguished Service Medal. The Minister intends to establish a military Medals Board to consider this recommendation without delay.
The IRG also considered all previous recommendations for military medals with respect to the events at Jadotville. Based on the research conducted during this review, the IRG is strongly of the view that there is no merit to the reopening the recommendations of the 1961, 1962 and 1965 Medals Boards.
The report highlights a level of misunderstanding in relation to the particular recommendations made for consideration of an award, either for meritorious promotions or for military medals. Minister Coveney noted that “Through the comprehensive research conducted by the review group these misunderstandings are addressed and the report sets out clearly the factual position in relation to those recommendations made nearly sixty years ago”.
With regard to the other recommendations included in the report, it is the case that some of these are outside the Terms of Reference of the review, nonetheless all will be considered in due course.
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. The Minister, will this evening address the Seanad and will formally offer his apologies to the men of ‘A’ Company, 35th Battalion and their families, in this regard.
The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, concluded: “The veterans of A’ Coy, 35 Infantry Battalion and their actions are the embodiment of our Defence Forces’ Values of Respect, Loyalty, Selflessness, Physical Courage, Moral Courage and Integrity. It is a matter of much regret to me, that the values which we hold so dear, were not evident in the manner in which Óglaigh na hÉireann failed to embrace the veterans of the Battle of Jadotville on their return from service in the Congo. I firmly believe the Defence Forces of today has institutionalised values and services that, had they existed in the 1960s, could have provided support to the veterans of ‘A’ Coy and brought their unjust treatment by some into open discourse. On behalf of Óglaigh na hÉireann I would like to apologise to the veterans of ‘A’ Coy, 35 Infantry Battalion and their families. I have full confidence that Óglaigh na hÉireann has learned valuable lessons from this experience and trust it will never be repeated.”
The link to the Report is available here: https://www.military.ie/!5ND1DJ
Notes for editors:
The siege of Jadotville was a prominent event that occurred during Ireland's peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961. "A" Company, 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on 3rd September 1961. On the 9th September, a large force of Katangese Gendarmerie surrounded them and early on the morning of the 13th September "A" Company came under attack. From the 13th to the 17th September they endured almost continuous attack. They were taken into captivity on the 17th September and remained in 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 personnel who served in Jadotville in September 1961 has been considered on a number of occasions over the years and a number 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.
Actions taken to honour and to commemorate the events at Jadotville (2004 -2015):
A review was conducted in 2004 by military officers for the purpose of a broader examination of the Jadotville case. This Board recommended that the events of Jadotville and the contribution of the 35th Battalion be given recognition. In this context, a number of measures have taken place to honour and to commemorate the events at Jadotville and the very significant contribution of “A” Company and of the 35th Battalion, as a whole, to the UN Peace Support Mission in the Congo.
Recognition of their contribution between the years 2004 and 2015 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 nominal roll of “A” Company, printed in copper, was affixed to the monument in Custume 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, a Unit Citation to honour the collective actions and bravery of the men of “A” Company was issued. This was the first time a Unit Citation was awarded within the Defence Forces.
An Bonn Jadotville - The Jadotville Medal (2017):
In June 2017, at the request of the Minister with responsibility for Defence, a further review of archival records relating to the Siege of Jadotville was undertaken by the Military Authorities but this did not uncover any additional information not already known. However, the findings of this review clarified that there is no certainty available in archive records on the totality of “A” Company personnel recommended for awards. Furthermore, it revealed no evidence of the outcome of the award consideration process. In considering the proposed way forward, the Military Authorities outlined that political direction would be required to take forward action in this area.
Given the increased knowledge and understanding of the unique and exceptional circumstances surrounding the Siege of Jadotville and taking account of the request from Military Authorities for political direction, the then Taoiseach and the then Minister with responsibility for Defence decided that the most appropriate decision would be to collectively honour the actions of “A” Company at Jadotville. A specially commissioned medal “An Bonn Jadotville” was awarded to all the men of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and the next of kin of deceased members, to give full and due recognition in honour of their courageous actions at the Siege of Jadotville in September, 1961.
This medal presentation ceremony took place in Custume Barracks, Athlone on 2nd December 2017. Custume Barracks was the location for this event as it is considered the spiritual home of “A” Company and it is from here 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.
Members & ToRs - Independent Review Group:
Last November, the Minister asked the Chief of Staff to consider whether it was possible, as an exceptional measure, to have a retrospective examination of the events at Jadotville in September 1961 in the context of the award of medals and the possible implications for the integrity of the award of medals system. In response, the Chief of Staff proposed the establishment of an independent group of external experts to consider the entire case and evidence, including new evidence, if any, available. The Independent Review Group established by the Chief of Staff in December 2020 consisted of the following members:
Brigadier-General Paul Pakenham (Retired) (Group Chairperson).
Dr Michael Kennedy, Royal Irish Academy.
Commandant Billy Campbell (Retired).
RSM Michael Dillon (Retired).
Ms Linda Hickey, Military Archives.
The Terms of Reference for the review are as follows:-
(a) The Review Group will consider the ONUC’s operational environment in Katanga, and in particular in Elizabethville and Jadotville
(b) The Review Group will consider the historical evidence and processes in relation to all recommendations for military medals received with respect to the events at Jadotville or encompassing Jadotville.
(c) The Review Group will engage with national and international stakeholders (including Jadotville veterans) as appropriate, with a view to uncovering any additional or new evidence in this case.
(d) The Review Group may consider the actions of individuals not already the subject of a recommendation for a medal in respect of Jadotville.
(e) The Review Group will report its findings to the Chief of Staff. The Review Group may make recommendations in relation to possible awards in respect of Jadotville.
In line with the Terms of Reference, the Independent Review Group examined, reported and made recommendations in relation to the ‘Battle of Jadotville’ from 13 to 17 September 1961 and reported its findings to the Chief of Staff.