The 60th anniversary of the deployment of Irish UN peacekeepers has been marked by a memorial ceremony earlier this month to soldiers killed in the Niemba Ambush in 1960.
Irish peacekeepers were first deployed to Lebanon on 1958 but the first major operation involving major combat was in the Congo two years later in 1960. Irish troops were deployed to assist a UN mandate preventing the secession of the mineral rich Katanga province. In November 1960 nine soldiers were killed in the ;Niemba Ambush’.
This report from the Irish Post:
“An Irish soldier who died in the Congo in 1960 was honoured at a ceremony in Blanchardstown in Dublin.
Sergeant Hugh Gaynor was one of nine Irish soldiers killed in the Niemba Ambush, when an eleven-man Irish patrol was attacked by Baluba tribesmen four months into their United Nations mission.
Crowds gathered in Sgt Gaynor’s home village of Blanchardstown where the plaque was unveiled by Fingal Mayor Mary McCamley.
The event was organised by a childhood neighbour, retired Air Corp pilot Commandant Frank Russell. Sgt Gaynor’s only surviving daughter, Sally Tallon, was also at the ceremony as were members of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association.
This year is the 60th Anniversary of Ireland sending its Defence Forces to take part in UN peacekeeping around the world. In those years some 87 people lost their lives on missions.
Sergeant Gaynor served with the 33rd Infantry Battalion which was deployed to the Congo in late 1960.
On 8 November 1960, while on patrol at Niemba eleven members of the Platoon led by Lieutenant Kevin Gleeson were ambushed. Nine of the eleven men died including Sergeant Gaynor and Lieutenant Gleeson.
Ireland’s Defence Forces have the longest unbroken record of peacekeeping duties of any country in the world.”
Footnote: Ironically the Baluba who carried out the attack were not secessionists but had allegedly mistaken the Irish peacekeepers for mercenaries.
pp Celtic League