Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD has expressed his disappointment that the state has failed to take the opportunity to make amends for its past failures to recognise the heroic actions of the Irish troops during the battle of Jadotville in 1961.
The Wicklow TD said:
“There is no doubt that the long-awaited publication of the report today will come as a disappointment to the surviving veterans and the families of all who fought at Jadotville.
“I welcome the decision regarding the setting-up of a Military Medals Board to consider the awarding of a posthumous award of the Distinguished Service Medal to Commandant Quinlan.
“That is a welcome development, which is long overdue. But the failure to consider the same for the 33 soldiers who were commended for their bravery by Commandant Quinlan is more than disappointing.
“This was a big opportunity for the Minister to undo the wrongs that were committed by the state against these troops for so long.
“They have been traumatised, they have been stigmatised, and they have been victimised, five veterans took their lives in the aftermath of the battle after returning home.
“Between the 13 and 17 September 1961, a contingent of 156 Irish Troops, outgunned and outnumbered, fought off an assault at the mining town of Jadotville in the Congo from a force of several thousand mercenaries and local tribesmen, until they ran out of ammunition and were left with no option but to surrender.
“It was an incredible feat of arms, made possible by the exemplary leadership of Commandant Pat Quinlan. That there were no fatalities on the Irish side despite the disparity in the size of the opposing forces is a tribute to the professionalism and tenacity of the Irish troops.
“Following their release from imprisonment, they returned to a country that shunned their service, ridiculed them, and did everything that it could to consign the engagement at Jadotville to annals of forgotten history.
“The Independent Review Group was set up to once and for all attempt to address this state of affairs and to finally do justice to the veterans who fought at Jadotville, and their families who stood with them on the home front.
“At over 500 pages, it is a comprehensive document. But the failure to recommend the issuing of medals to the 33 troops, after such a long wait, would appear to rob the report of much of its intended substance.”