Commandant Pat Quinlan with personnel from A Company in Congo.

Jadotville review group report due

An independent review group set up to re-examine the issue of whether medals for gallantry and distinguished service should be awarded to soldiers who served at the Siege of Jadotville 60 years ago is due to make its recommendation next month.

The group's report was initially expected by the end of March, but in the Dáil last Thursday Defence Minister Simon Coveney said the "sheer volume" of meetings and research involved had resulted in a delay to the process.

The final report is now set to be submitted to the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces in mid-June, and the Chief of Staff would then issue any recommendations arising from it to Minister Coveney's office.

"September next is a very significant anniversary of the heroic contribution of Irish Defence Forces personnel at Jadotville. I hope that we will have a successful outcome to this review which will conclude next month," Minister Coveney told the Dáil.

The independent review group was established by the Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, last December.

It is being chaired by Brigadier-General Paul Pakenham, retired; and its membership includes Dr Michael Kennedy of the Royal Irish Academy; Commandant Billy Campbell, retired; Regimental Sergeant Major Michael Dillon, retired; and Ms Linda Hickey of the military archives.

In December 2017, a Jadotville medal, 'An Bonn Jadotville', was presented by the State to some 40 surviving members of 'A Company' and to the families of the deceased soldiers who had served there.

Subsequently, in November 2018, military records were uncovered which gave specific details about the medals for gallantry and distinguished service which the late Commandant Pat Quinlan had recommended for 33 of his men.

In the Dáil last week, Minister Coveney said he was conscious of the "strength of feeling" which Jadotville evoked.

"The Quinlan family have been very strong advocates for full recognition of the contribution that Irish Defence Forces serving personnel made in what were extraordinarily testing and difficult circumstances during the Battle of Jadotville," he said.

He emphasised, however, that the awarding of medals needed to be "a military process and not a political one".

Galway TD Catherine Connolly said nothing had captured her "heart or imagination" like the Jadotville story.

"The Minister spoke about a process that is not political, and I understand that, but if ever a time was right to do the right thing, the 60th anniversary in September is that time."

It's understood there are eight surviving members of the 33 who were recommended by Commandant Quinlan for these medals, including Ballymahon resident, Joseph O'Kane, Mullingar's Tom Gunn, Tullamore's Noel Stanley, and Longford's Michael Tighe.