Last week I was delighted to host a briefing for members of the Oireachtas on Jadotville-Unfinished Business, presented by retired Commandant Leo Quinlan who is the son of unit commander Commandant Pat Quinlan (deceased). This extraordinary story has been popularized by a movie of the same name and last year 150 soldiers from the 35th Irish battalion “A” Company were honoured in recognition of their achievement in fighting against an estimated 3,000 enemy troops in the Congo in 1961.
While the presentation of a Presidential Unit Citation to each surviving member of the battalion and to the families of those who are now deceased was welcomed and appreciated, I believe that it should not be the end of the story and over the last year I have been an active supporter of the campaign for the establishment of an Army Medal Board and the awarding of medals to the Jadotville soldiers. In 1965 the Army Medal board did not recommend the awarding of medals for the action in Jadotville for a variety of reasons. Commandant Leo Quinlan said in his presentation that “this was at a time that the events in the Congo were seen as an abject failure by the UN at diplomatic and military levels, i.e. ignoring the UN Peace Keeping mandate and a move towards Peace Enforcement with all of its tragic consequences." He said that as a result of this mindset everything about the Congo in 1961 was “swept under the carpet” and the recommendations for medals for a handful of “A” Coy members was ignored. That the leadership and bravery of Unit commander Quinlan and his men has been ignored is shameful and I am delighted to be part of the campaign to see this wrong finally addressed. I will be hosting another presentation by Leo Quinlan in Dublin over the next few months. Leo combines his own extensive military experience and knowledge with original documents handed down by his father to bring us a thoroughly moving account of the battle of Jadotville and the brave and ingenious Irish soldiers who fought in it. This is one not to be missed and I will keep you posted on further presentations and developments as they arise.