NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
A film to be released this year will celebrate the heroic defence by Irish UN peacekeeping forces of the town of Jadotville in Katanga (see link):
The peacekeepers, men of A Company, 35th Battalion of the Defence Forces hitherto have not had proper recognition for what they achieved as UN soldiers in the Congo in September 1961.
But things started to change in 2005 with the unveiling of a plaque in Custume Barracks in Athlone and two years ago it was announced that a full-length feature film, The Siege of Jadotville was to be made. The film stars the Northern Ireland-born actor Jamie Dornan who plays Comdt Pat Quinlan from Waterville in Co Kerry, the pipe-smoking 42-year-old commander of A Company, who led his men against extraordinary odds, under attack from Katangan tribesmen and foreign mercenaries in the Congo.
Comdt Quinlan was revered by his men – a hard task master but one who had their respect and, perhaps above all, their trust. The story of Quinlan and his men and what they did 55 years ago is, indeed, extraordinary.
The United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Congo was the first in which the world body sought to impose itself as a peace-enforcing military force, rather than merely acting as military observers, supervising a truce or the aftermath of a conflict.
It was also Ireland’s first UN peacekeeping operation, the Defence Forces’ first outing on the international stage since gaining independence.
In September 1961, about 150 soldiers from A Company were at Jadotville where Quinlan and his men were ordered to protect the local population from the Katangan militia and mercenaries. They were armed with light rifles, 60mm mortars and two Vickers armoured cars with turret-mounted machine guns.
On September 13th, they came under heavy attack from between 3,000 and 5,000 militia, tribesmen and mercenaries, going at them in waves of about 600 at a time and supported by a French manufactured Magister training jet, fitted with machine guns and under-wing bombs.
Quinlan marshalled his men to good effect, so much so that they held out for six days. Efforts by other UN forces to come to their relief failed. At one stage, the Irish radioed UN headquarters saying: “We will hold out until our last bullet is spent, could do with some whiskey.”
Through good, accurate shooting and well-aimed mortars, the Irish repulsed repeated attacks, knocking out enemy mortar and artillery positions, killing some 300 of their foes and wounding up to 1,000 more – all without sustaining a single fatality themselves, though five were wounded.
In the end, however, when their ammunition and water ran out, Quinlan was forced into a ceasefire and then surrender, after which the peacekeepers were held hostage for a month before being released.
The Congo was the first UN peacekeeping operation by the Defence Forces and since then global deployments have become commonplace. Ireland’s small army has paid a high price for being at the forefront of UN peacekeeping with almost 90 men killed (see link):
The new film will for the first time give global exposure to this vital Irish UN contribution with the film scheduled to be distributed by Netflix on their global network as well as on general release.
Issued by: The Celtic News
THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE.
The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues