Minister agrees to defer decision on Jadotville medals
Posted on 30th September 2021 at 21:14
High Court applicants say all who showed bravery in 1961 battle should be awarded
The Minister for Defence has undertaken not to consider how many medals should be awarded to Irish soldiers who fought in the 1961 battle of Jadotville prior to a legal challenge returning before the High Court in November.
The undertaking was given through the Minister’s lawyers on Thursday when proceedings by campaigners seeking to honour the Irish who fought from September 13th-17th 1961 at Jadotville, Katanga, in the then Republic of Congo, were adjourned by consent to November 2nd.
The proceedings are by two retired members of the Defence Forces, Senator Gerard Craughwell and Leo Quinlan. Their concern is that just one medal may be awarded when, they maintain, all those who showed exceptional bravery should be honoured.
Mr Quinlan, a former commandant of Barna, Co Galway, is a son of the late Cmdt Patrick Quinlan, who commanded the Irish troops at Jadotville.
Represented by Vincent Heneghan SC, with John Berry BL and Joseph Mulrean BL, the applicants also sought an injunction restraining the Minister, pending the outcome of their proceedings, not to consider any recommendations arising from the convening of any military board to consider the award of medals for the Jadotville battle.
Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon was told on Thursday by Mr Heneghan the sides had agreed the injunction application and the judicial review proceedings could both be adjourned to November.
Through his counsel, Andrew Fitzpatrick SC, the Minister gave an undertaking not to consider any medals recommendations pending the matter returning to court.
In September 1961, the late Cmdt Quinlan and 155 troops were dispatched to the then break-away province of Katanga, as part of a UN mission. They came under sustained attack over five days at Jadotville from a significantly larger and well-equipped force of 3,000 Belgian, French and Rhodesian-led Katanga mercenaries with air support.
Despite inflicting serious casualties on their attackers, the Irish troops ran out of ammunition and water and surrendered. They were eventually released. No Irish soldier was killed in the battle.
Cmdt Quinlan, following the battle, had recommended the troops under his command at Jadotville should be awarded medals but those requests were rejected by his superiors.
In an affidavit Leo Quinlan said, notwithstanding their service, the Irish troops were “treated shamefully” as a result of their surrender.
A report of an Independent Review Group, set up last year by the Defence Forces Chief of Staff, made clear the soldiers fought and held their encircled position for five days after which, without hope of a relief force and without supplies, they were forced to surrender or “defencelessly face massacre”, he said. Last July, the men received an apology from the State.
Mr Quinlan said the independent review group had recommended a medal process be initiated without delay for the consideration of the Distinguished Service Medal for his father.
He had disagreed with a suggestion by the group chairman that awarding a medal to his father, as representative of the efforts of all the soldiers of A-company, might resolve the medals issue.
The applicants maintain others should receive medals and want an opportunity to make submissions to any Military Board convened to consider the award of medals for exemplary conduct.
They say they have received no proper response from the Government concerning whether such a board has been convened and have taken their proceedings over fears that a decision may be taken regarding medals without them being able to make any submissions.
Among the reliefs sought is a declaration they be allowed make submissions to any such board.
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