Jadotville Veterans to be Honoured in Kildare for 60th Anniversary
A group from Athy is to cycle the 100 kms from Athlone to Athy on 29 June
to help commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Siege of Jadotville in the Congo,and raise funds for the veterans remaining.
Led by local physiotherapist and fitness guru Francis Harrigan, the peloton will include Senator Mark Wall, local councillors Brian Dooley and Mark Leigh, Garda Sean O’Mahony, along with at least 10 volunteers from the Tango Fitness gym.
They will cycle the 100 kms (60 miles) from Custume Barracks in Athlone – the home base of the 1961 UN contingent – to honour and remember the men who travelled out to the Congo 60 years ago, and are expected to do so inside four hours.
Organised by the Organisation of National Ex-Service personnel (ONE) the charity event is aiming nationally to cover an ambitious combined distance of 24,000km – the equivalent of a round trip from Athlone to Jadotville – over five days from 29 June to 3 July, representing the length of time the men were under attack
Of the 155 men who served in ‘A’ Company, five were from Kildare although
sadly, none of them are still alive. TKN spoke with Kevin Carton, ONE Chairman in Athy to hear about the plans for the campaign.
“We’ll be doing a bit of a walk here as well, in our own time…we’re all old men here in town…and it’s a small branch in Athy,” said Kevin.
However, he revealed a bit of a secret weapon at their disposal.
“Oh, we have Francis Harrigan, the physiotherapist. He is a fitness fanatic, and a bit of a marathon man! He’ll do a bit!” smiled Kevin, before quickly suggesting that anyone else wishing to volunteer would be welcome – with or without a military background – and help the 64 remaining veterans from the only standing battle in living Army memory.
The Siege of Jadotville occurred in September 1961 when a UN contingent of Irish peace-keeping troops came under attack by Katangese forces during a mission in the town of Jadotville, within the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Irish soldiers withstood the attack for five days but were ultimately taken captive after running out of water and ammunition before being released after 34 days.
The challenge aims to raise funds for mental health services for veterans and raise awareness of the bravery the Jadotville Tigers displayed during the siege.
Those who served at Jadotville were largely ignored and mocked for their
surrender, until a high profile campaign in 2012 resulted in the recognition of the bravery of Commandant Pat Quinlan and the soldiers of A Coy., 35th Inf Bn.
The campaign veterans were later awarded medals honouring their bravery and courage in 2017 for their extraordinary service to peacekeeping and to Ireland in what was an incredibly complex, and difficult conflict.
“ONE supports Irish veterans through its three homes for homeless veterans in Dublin, Letterkenny and Athlone, with a fourth under development in Cobh,” said Ollie O’Connor, CEO of ONE.
“We also have 37 branches and 15 veteran support centres nationwide, with 2 fulltime Support Officers,” he added. “We have chosen this time frame to mark the five days our comrades were in battle. The cost to each participant is €30, plus a small booking fee. Each participant will receive a very unique Medal, a Goodie Bag” and a ‘Certificate of Completion’,” he said.
For information on the Siege of Jadotville and to register for the event, please visit www.jadotvillechallenge.com