A WEST Cork councillor is calling for gallantry and distinguished service medals to be awarded to surviving Irish soldiers who took part in the Siege of Jadotville in the Congo over 60 years ago as ‘time is against them.’
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) raised the motion at a recent meeting of the local authority and said he has a neighbour in Skibbereen whose uncle is terminally ill and was a soldier of A Company in the 35th Infantry Battalion that served under a UN mandate in the Congo in the early 1960s. The meeting heard that there are only eight surviving soldiers alive.
‘When you look into what happened to these people you will find it astonishing at the way they have been treated since they returned home from the Congo in 1961,’ said Cllr Carroll.
‘These young men were put into a situation that was completely alien to them but they stood their ground and the Irish army was recognised worldwide for their work. But to say that they won’t be honoured is a mystery.’ Cllr Carroll noted that several ministers down through the years have declined to honour these soldiers.
‘These families are being treated very badly and they’d like to know at what time did they leave their country down?’ His colleague Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) seconded the motion and said it is important that these men gain recognition that is being denied to them by the State.
‘The Congo was in a volatile state at the time when the UN mandated Irish soldiers to go in to keep peace there and unfortunately some of them lost their lives, and those who survived and fought gallantry should be recognised for this,’ said Cllr Coughlan.
‘We are calling for the Minister to sanction the awarding of these medals before these men depart from this life.’
Cllr Carroll called on Minister Simon Coveney to look into this matter and also asked that the Council send a letter to the Chief of Staff of the Irish Army and President Michael D Higgins.