Thursday, 7 February 2019

Questions (44)

Clare Daly

Question:

44. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will consider awarding a posthumous Distinguished Service Medal to a person (details supplied); and if the promotion for which they had been recommended will be put on their Army record. [5986/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The siege of Jadotville was a prominent event that occurred during Ireland's peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961. "A" Company, 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on 3rd September 1961. On the 9th September, a large force of Katangese Gendarmerie surrounded them and early on the morning of the 13th September "A" Company came under attack. From the 13th to the 17th September they endured almost continuous attack. They were taken into captivity on the 17th September and remained in captivity until finally released on the 25th October 1961.

In accordance with Defence Forces regulations, the award of medals for bravery is time bound. These may not be awarded in any case unless a recommendation is made through the usual channels to the Chief of Staff, not later than two years in the case of the Military Medal for Gallantry, and not later than four years in the case of the Distinguished Service Medal, after the performance of the act in respect of which the recommendation is made. Such awards are made on the recommendation of a Military Board appointed by the Chief of Staff for the purpose of examining and reporting on every recommendation for an award.

The issue of the award of medals to the men of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion was comprehensively addressed in 1965. A properly constituted Medals Board considered the recommendation for the award of a medal to the person whose details are supplied and the other various cases presented and made a decision that no medals would be awarded. Defence Forces records indicate that recommendation for the award of a medal to the person referred to in the details supplied was considered by this board, but not upheld. The Chief of Staff of the day considered the decision of the Board and was satisfied with the findings. Subsequently, at that time, the question was raised again in a letter to a newly appointed Chief of Staff. He forwarded the letter to the original Medals Board and asked that they reconvene and review their decision. The Board indicated that the issues raised had received due consideration and that they were not prepared to alter their findings. There is currently no regulatory provision either to revisit the findings of a Medals Board or to effect a meritorious promotion posthumously.

Over the past number of years various representations have been received in my Department outlining the courage and bravery of "A" Company. All representations have been considered and responded to acknowledging their valiant actions while under siege in Jadotville.

A review was conducted in 2004 by military officers for the purpose of a broader examination of the Jadotville case. This Board recommended that the events of Jadotville and the contribution of the 35th Battalion be given recognition. In this context, a number of measures have taken place to honour and to commemorate the events at Jadotville and the very significant contribution of “A” Company and of the 35th Battalion, as a whole, to the UN Peace Support Mission in the Congo.

Recognition of their contribution over the years include:

A. A presentation of scrolls to "A" Company in 2006.

B. Portraits of Lt Col McNamee (35th Battalion Commander) and Comdt Quinlan (Company Commander “A” Company) were commissioned in 2006.

C. In July of 2010 the 50th anniversary of the first deployment to the Congo was commemorated in a highly publicised and well attended event in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

D. A nominal roll of “A” Company, printed in copper, was affixed to the monument in Costume Barracks and was unveiled as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Jadotville affair in September 2011.

E. On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the Siege of Jadotville, I decided to issue a Unit Citation to honour the collective actions and bravery of the men of “A” Company. This was the first time a Unit Citation was awarded within the Defence Forces and I was delighted to be able to formally recognise the brave actions of these men.

Furthermore, on 13th June 2017, the Government decided, as an exceptional step, to award a medal known as “An Bonn Jadotville” or “The Jadotville Medal” to each member of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and to the family representatives of deceased members to give full and due recognition in honour of their courageous actions at the Siege of Jadotville. I was delighted to present these Jadotville Medals at a ceremony that took place on 2nd December 2017 in Custume Barracks, Athlone. At this presentation, a medal was presented to a family representative of the person whose details are supplied. Custume Barracks was the location for this event as it is considered the spiritual home of “A” Company and it is from here that “A” company assembled in advance of their fateful deployment to the Congo.

I am satisfied that the events and happenings to date properly honour the collective bravery of the men of “A” Company and full and due recognition has been afforded to them in their honour.