UK AMBASSADOR AT MUSEUM

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Carmel Thornton (Monaghan Co. Council) with Ambassador Robin Barnett, Eamonn O’Sullivan CEO Monaghan Co. Council and Museum Curator Liam Bradley

British Ambassador visits Monaghan County Museum

The British Ambassador to Ireland, Robin Barnett CMG, paid a visit to Monaghan County Museum recently. The Ambassador was met by the Curator, Liam Bradley, Monaghan County Council Chief Executive Eamonn O¹Sullivan and Administrative Officer Carmel Thornton. The Ambassador was taken on a tour of the museum¹s current exhibition, “From a Whisper to a Roar: Exploring the Untold Story of Monaghan 1916.” Liam Bradley explained what life was like in the county directly before the Easter 1916 Rising politically, economically and socially and how that changed so dramatically following the bombshell of the historic events in Dublin and around the country.

The other focus of the display is the Battle of the Somme. The Curator noted it was estimated that nearly one hundred Monaghan men died during that terrible battle which took place from July 1st to November 18th 1916. Ambassador Barnett noted that this year of commemorations was an opportunity to explore the full story of this period in Irish history. He remarked on the recent event at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, where a Castleblayney man, Thomas Hughes, was commemorated for receiving the Victoria Cross during the Battle of the Somme. Private Hughes VC is one of the key characters explored in the museum¹s exhibition on the historic year of Monaghan 1916.

At the end of his visit the Ambassador thanked the Museum Curator and the staff of the museum for developing such a fascinating display. He expressed a keen interest to return when he had more time to view all of the museum displays. Chief Executive of Monaghan County Council Eamonn O’Sullivan thanked Ambassador Barnett for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit the museum and also thanked the museum staff. The exhibition formed the backdrop for the special celebration marking what would have been the 100th birthday of Sir Jack Leslie of Castle Leslie, Glaslough.

KILLEEVAN GAA HISTORY

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF KILLEEVAN GAA AND PARISH

Michael Fisher

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JP Graham signs the book

John Patrick (JP) Graham from Killeevan is best known for his reports and commentaries on GAA matters. But the journalist is also a local historian. Earlier this year he produced a wide-ranging history of his local Club and parish entitled: “Killeevan Sarsfields GFC: A Centenary History 1915-2015 and a Parish Record”. The book (price €20) has been re-launched in time for the Christmas market and makes an ideal gift for those who have left the area and are living away from home, to remind them of their roots.

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GAA Director General Paraic Duffy at the launch of the book

JP set out to record and document the efforts of the founding fathers and the successive generations of people who contributed to the parish. The Director General of the GAA, Paraic Duffy, described the publication as very impressive. He paid tribute to the author for his ‘labour of love’ and for his unfailing, lifelong commitment to the GAA at club and county level. The book is dedicated to JP’s grandson and godson, Aaron Patrick Graham and his other five grandchildren are included in that dedication.

This book traces the story of Killeevan Sarsfields from its foundation back in 1915 when the club was formed by amalgamating the two clubs that existed in the parish at that time, Greenan’s Cross Tir na nOgs and Ture Davitts. The centenary publication traces the development of the club through its glory years in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s when Killeevan were regarded as Kings, winning the Monaghan senior double of league and championship in 1944. Thereafter the club enjoyed something of a chequered history and went out of existence for one year. But they rose from the ashes to win the intermediate double in 1974 and enjoyed further success in junior ranks in the 1990s.

The official opening of Sarsfield Park in 1983 was a highlight and the book covers in some detail the last couple of decades. Success on the field proved elusive, but a major infrastructural development programme was completed in time for the centenary year. Other aspects of parish history and life are included, with sections on Newbliss village and the development of education in the parish, including records from the old Killeevan National School.

In his introduction JP Graham says he has “tried to give a flavour of all aspects of club activity and the people involved…with a special emphasis on the games and the players. I have also tried to factor in some aspects of the social life of Killeevan club and parish, because the club is central to the parish and touches practically every family in the area”.

The book (published by R&S Printers Monaghan) contains 370 pages and is on sale in Martin’s Londis, Newbliss, Matthews of Clones, and the Eason Bookshop, Monaghan, or directly from the author.

Is leabhar iontach shuimiúil é an leabhar seo, faigh ceann roimh a imionn siad go léir. Maith thú J.P. as an obair iontach a chuir tú isteach.

MCMAHON BURIAL VAULTS INNISKEEN

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Surviving walls of the McMahon burial vaults, Inniskeen old graveyard Pic. Mary Kerley/Monaghan Heritage

CONSERVATION PLAN FOR MCMAHON VAULTS INNISKEEN

(Thanks to Joe Callan for the information) Northern Standard Thursday 8th December

Inniskeen Heritage was reformed at a meeting in the Community Centre on Monday last. Great interest has been generated in heritage recently by the publication of Matt Kearney’s book on the McMahon burial vaults in the old graveyard. A heritage plan for the graveyard is being drawn up and the group intends to seek LEADER funding for the conservation of the vaults and the surveying and promotion of the whole village with respect to its early Christian heritage.

The group acknowledges the advice and assistance of the County Heritage Officer, Shirley Clerkin and of Larry McDermott, a member of the original group who now sits on Monaghan Heritage Forum.

At the initial meeting the following officers were elected: Chairperson: Brian Dooley; Vice Chairperson: Tom Lennon; Secretary: Joe Callan; Treasurer: Micheal Magee; Assistant Treasurer: Sean Rafferty and Public Relations Officer: Seamus Mulligan.

It is hoped to stimulate a wider interest locally in the history of the parish. The group plans to hold a public consultation meeting in the near future. You can contact them via email at: inniskeenheritagegroup@gmail.com or speak to any of the committee members with suggestions or contributions.

Monaghan County Council Heritage Office has sought to commission three conservation management plans and a programme of community engagement for a total of four Early Christian era sites. This action comes under the County Monaghan Heritage Plan 2012-2017. The project is funded by Monaghan County Council and the Heritage Council.

The four sites are:

  1. Inniskeen Glebe: Inniskeen round tower and graveyard (McMahon Vaults).
  2. Clones, Crossmoyle, Clones round tower and graveyard.
  3. Killahear, Corlat, Killahear graveyard (Lough Egish).
  4. Errigal Truagh medieval church.

The sites have a wide range of significance values including archaeological, historical, cultural, religious, social, natural and economic. They are geographically spread, and as a result involve a number of parishes and their associated communities. In all cases local groups exist that are keen to manage and understand these sites more effectively.

Historically, the sites are linked during the early Christian period, as well as thematically using contemporary heritage meanings. Inniskeen and Clones have round towers. Errigal Truagh and Killahear have church ruins. The sites have links to four Irish saints, St Daig (Inniskeen), St Tighernach (Clones), St Ceara (Killahear) and St Maudain (Errigal Truagh).

It’s proposed that three conservation plans in an appropriate and agreed format for the Early Christian sites at Clones, Inniskeen and Killahear should be developed with the communities. A series of evening and/or weekend workshops with the local communities who manage the sites would be held to develop an understanding of early Christian Ireland, monasticism and an appreciation of the wide range of heritage values associated with each place.

According to the County Council, the groups including Inniskeen are very enthusiastic about the project. They intend to help channel that enthusiasm into positive outcomes for the sites. It is intended that the groups will work together on common themes and will focus separately on the site in their own community.

TITLE FIGHT CANCELLED

TITLE FIGHT CANCELLED

Michael Fisher     Northern Standard  Thursday 1st December 2016

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Christina McMahon in Carrickmacross    Pic. Michael Fisher

‘Lightning’ Christina McMahon was due to be in the ring this Saturday in one of the toughest challenges in her career. But instead the professional boxer will be at home in Carrickmacross after the fight was cancelled. She told he supporters on her Facebook page she had received “unfortunate news that my opponent pulled out. No surprise in my world of professional boxing.” The boxer displayed her resilience saying that she wa snow fine, but had been “in a state of shock and annoyance” when the news reached her. Christina commented: “Its a tough cruel game and just too late to sort another opponent for the show, therefore the show is cancelled. Thank you for tremendous support and help. We won’t give up without a fight.”

The boxer thanked Frank Stacey of FS Promotions for trying to put the show on at the National Stadium in Dublin, the other boxers who had been willing to get in and box on the night and everyone who had already bought tickets to support her. 
Anyone who purchased a ticket (€40 for the gallery and €65 for ringside) was promised a refund via Paddy Kwan (087)9907876.

“This is not the end of the journey, just a frustrating situation that will look small in the years to come”, Christina said. She also expressed her appreciation to Shivana Inalsingh of the WBA and female boxing Advocate Eddie Montalvo for working hard with Frank Stacey on alternative options.

“Lightning” was due to face “Triple L” Linda Laura Lecca from Peru for the vacant World Boxing Association female flyweight title. 43 year-old McMahon controversially lost in Mexico to Zulina Muñoz in March and was afterwards promised a rematch. With the WBC continuing to stall on a return bout, her husband and coach Frick McMahon revealed in irishboxing.com a list of alleged indiscretions by the governing body, including glove irregularities, anti-doping procedural failings, and a failure to review the scorecards correctly. Christina was then informed by the WBC she had been suspended by that organization, but remains licensed by the Boxing Union of Ireland.

CHRISTMAS CRACKER FOR CARRICK

NEW CARRICKMACROSS LACE GALLERY GETS APPROVAL

Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Thursday 1st December p.1

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Current Carrickmacross Lace Gallery, Market House  Pic. Michael Fisher

The approval of funding for a new Lace Gallery in Carrickmacross could provide a major boost for tourism in the south Monaghan area and help to open up the town. That’s the view of Bill Cotter, chair of the South Monaghan Tourism Forum and honorary member of the Lace Co-op. The former Fine Gael TD said the tourism group had been working actively to promote Carrick and the grant was long overdue. The development of a lace centre in what used to be a branch library in Market Square would give the group confidence to continue their efforts to bring in visitors from different parts of the world, he said.

Mr Cotter was reacting to the announcement on Monday by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, that the sum of €100,000 had been approved to develop the Market House site for multipurpose use including a new Lace Gallery, and to develop enterprise sites. Clones is also to receive funding as a heritage centre under the €5.3 million REDZ (Rural Economic Development Zones) initiative. (see separate story). The programme aims to stimulate economic development in rural towns and their hinterlands. The money is being spent on 41 projects nationwide, with €1.9 million going to projects in the northern and western region.

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Elizabeth Daly, Chair, Carrickmacross Lace Gallery  Pic. Michael Fisher

The good news reached the Lace Gallery Co-op Chair Elizabeth Daly on Tuesday afternoon. She said the members of the group were absolutely delighted at the prospect of moving to an enlarged and far superior display area next year. It would help to put lace at the forefront of tourism in south Monaghan.

Looking at the visitor book in the small unit that the gallery currently occupies, the entries range from Ireland (Dublin, Sligo, Glenties), Hillsborough and Bangor in Co. Down, England (Cambridge and London), France (Carhaix), Australia and several from the USA. The Co-op continues to receive orders from visitors and online. An order for a long lace veil for a wedding was recently completed for a bride from Virginia in the USA. She collected the finished work (which took seven months to produce) just in time for her wedding in County Wicklow.

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                 Elizabeth Daly, Chair, Carrickmacross Lace Gallery Pic. Michael Fisher

Almost 3000 people have called into them this year. Moving across to the other side of the Market Square and with more space to display their craftwork and range of gifts could potentially treble the number of visitors annually, according to the gallery. At the moment, a coach tour of fifty people has to be split up into small groups of six or seven if they want to visit the display. The larger area will enable them to handle the larger groups and to enhance the display of Carrickmacross lace, with its five special characteristics such as loops.

The Co-op began in 1984 and the first share was purchased by a St Louis nun Sr Cronin who had been involved with the promotion of lace at the convent in Carrickmacross. “Your mission is to keep this skill alive”, she told them. Elizabeth Daly now teaches lace-making and has organised a series of workshops in recent years. The new location will hopefully provide room for the classes.

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Carrickmacross Market House  Pic. Michael Fisher

The Co-op was originally situated in the old Shirley tollhouse but moved to the opposite side of Main Street in 1990. The renovation of the Market House building which dates back to 1861 was approved by Monaghan County Council in June last year. The idea is that the square should become a central focus for tourism in the town, where more walking trails are being developed. The nine-bay central section has a large gabled carriage entrance which will be transformed into a foyer between two large units. The one of the right which used to house a branch library will become the new Lace Gallery. The unit on the other side is earmarked for a shop and studio. The public toilets will be re-arranged and windows and doors will be refurbished with the objective of securing the preservation of this site of architectural and historical interest.

The Cathaoirleach of Carrickmacross Castleblayney Municipal District Cllr Aidan Campbell said he was delighted that the money had come through for the project. He looked forward to seeing the development started in the New Year and said it was very timely. He pointed out that Castleblayney had benefited in the past year from the same scheme, which had enabled buildings to be painted and new signage erected.

Announcing the funding, Minister Humphreys said: “The REDZ scheme aims to improve links between rural towns and their hinterlands to stimulate activity at a local level. It is one of a number of schemes which my department has been rolling out to boost economic activity and improve living standards across rural Ireland.”

“This initiative encourages local authorities to work with local communities, Chambers of Commerce, business interests and other state bodies, to identify areas of greatest economic need which can make better use of their local assets to generate economic activity. This is all about the regeneration of rural towns and villages and empowering local communities to provide local residents with local opportunities”, she added.

Other initiatives recently introduced by the government as part of this programme include the new €10 million Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the approval of almost €7.5 million to support rural recreation infrastructure, the establishment of a national taskforce to identify practical measures which can be taken in the short-term to improve broadband and mobile phone coverage in rural areas, and the establishment of two regional broadband action groups to prepare for the roll-out of broadband under the National Broadband Plan.

Carrickmacross is well known for the attractive lace bearing its name. The lace is worked in an individual style, devised by Mrs Grey Porter, wife of the rector of Donaghmoyne, who introduced it in 1820. When she left the district the teaching of lacemaking was continued by Miss Reid of Rahans, but it was only after the 1846 famine, when a lace school was set up by the managers of the Bath and Shirley estates at Carrickmacross as a means of helping their tenants, that the lace became known and found sales.

In the last decade of the 19th century the Sisters of St Louis founded their own lace school to revive the craft, and this was quite profitable for several years. Although the outbreak of the 1914–18 war marked the virtual end of commercial production of hand-made lace in Europe, the lace school kept the technique alive throughout most of the 20th century. Carrickmacross lace also featured on the late Princess Diana’s wedding dress.

 

MUSHROOMS CRISIS

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MUSHROOM INDUSTRY ‘IN TURMOIL’ SINCE BREXIT VOTE

IFA SEEKS GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE FOR PRODUCERS

Michael Fisher    Northern Standard  Thursday 29th September p.1

The Irish mushroom industry has been thrown into turmoil since the UK voted to withdraw from the European Union, according to producers. Chief Executive of Monaghan Mushrooms Ronnie Wilson said they were facing a very difficult crisis, partially caused by the change in the rate between the Euro and sterling. The IFA’s mushroom committee chairman Gerry Reilly said €7m worth of exports and 130 jobs had been lost since the Brexit vote in June.

Both men made a presentation on Tuesday to the Oireachtas agriculture committee alongside Micheál McGovern, chair of Monaghan-based Commercial Mushroom Producers (CMP), Lesley Codd of Codd Mushrooms from Tullow, Co Carlow; and Rowena Dwyer, IFA chief economist.

Among the legislators who heard their evidence was Senator Robbie Gallagher from Monaghan (Fianna Fáil). He said it was imperative the government in the forthcoming budget provided the industry with a bridge to get them over this difficult period.

mushyrooms.jpgCurrently, Irish growers produce around 70,000 tonnes of mushrooms, of which 80%, worth €120m at farm gate (double the value of Irish potatoes), is marketed to UK multiples through a network of marketing agents. There are around sixty growers and they employ 3,500 people, most of them in rural Ireland, especially Monaghan. Only four European countries produce more than Ireland.

Mr Reilly told the committee: “Since the UK vote to leave the EU, the mushroom industry in Ireland has been thrown into turmoil, and growers are in loss-making territory, resulting from the sudden and significant weakening of sterling,” he said.

WEAKENING OF STERLING

The weakening of the sterling is having such a damaging effect because the marketing companies that sell Irish mushrooms negotiate their contracts in sterling. In addition, mushroom prices are forward agreed, generally for contract periods of up to twelve months. As they are fixed contracts, mushroom producers cannot renegotiate the price the receive.

MMushrooms.jpgThe immediate difficulty is that contracts have been agreed in sterling, when sterling was at a much stronger position against the Euro. For the first six months of this year, the average exchange rate was £0.78 to €1. This meant a payment of £1 was worth €1.28 to Irish producers. Today, that same pound is worth only €1.16, sterling having weakened by over 13% since the Brexit vote. CMP estimates that €10m will be lost on an annual basis across the CMP farms in the Republic, translating to an average loss per farm of somewhere between €250,000 and €300,000.

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IFA Horticulture Chair Gerry Reilly

Mr Reilly reminded the Oireachtas members: “mushrooms are a perishable product with a relatively short shelf life, produced 52 weeks a year. The ‘best before’ date is five – seven days after harvesting. There is no viable alternative market for such a highly perishable fresh product.

Currently the UK is our only market. We send more than 50 Artic loads to the UK, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Resulting from the closure of the Russian market, mushrooms from eastern Europe, produced at much lower production costs, are now entering the UK retail market and displacing Irish produce.

mushroomwhite.jpgSHORT-TERM SUPPORTS

On behalf of the IFA and CMP, Mr Reilly called on the government to introduce a number of short-term supports:

  1. Immediate payment by the government of the producer organisation (PO) funding due to the CMP (53 producers) for their 2015 programme.
  2. A temporary reduction in the lower rate of employer PRSI (from 8.5% to 4.25%) to be introduced in October’s budget to directly affect employment costs for mushroom producers.
  3. An extension of the tax relief measure for startup companies to existing companies in the mushroom sector. This would be capped at €15,000 per annum, thereby recognising the limitations imposed by State aid rules for the agriculture sector.
  4. No increase in excise rates on agricultural diesel or other road fuels.
  5. Direct support to mushroom producers through CAP market support measures.
  6. Agricultural Diesel – there must be no increase in excise rates for Marked Gas Oil (agricultural diesel). In addition, given the importance of maintaining competitiveness, the IFA would have to question any move by the Government to increase excise rates on other road fuels at this time.

mushroooms.jpgPOLISH PRODUCT

The IFA submission stated that a significant and longer-term market pressure for Irish producers is the foothold that has been gained in the UK retail market by Polish product. This is very worrying as their cost base is only a fraction of ours e.g. their labour rate is 28% of the minimum wage in Ireland.

The dominant power of the retailers and significant food price deflation in fresh produce, has resulted in serious downward price pressure on our mushroom exports, which has now been compounded by the sterling decline.

Mushroom production is highly labour intensive and the threats now faced by the industry could result in significant job losses. It will also impact on the tillage sector, as the mushroom industry is a significant purchaser of wheaten straw and on the poultry sector, as poultry litter is used in mushroom compost.

In the past, a reduction in production or closure of a mushroom business was replaced by increased production from fellow growers. However, market share lost by the Irish mushroom industry as a result of the current crisis will simply be replaced by other European suppliers.

The IFA has met the Minister for Horticulture Andrew Doyle to impress on him the immediate need to take a number of actions to support our mushroom sector in the wake of the light of Brexit and the weakening of sterling. We also note the recent comments by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed acknowledging the particular issues of the mushroom sector, and his commitment to provide support to the sector in the Budget process, Mr Reilly said.

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Ronnie Wilson, CEO Monaghan Mushrooms

A DIFFICULT CRISIS

Ronnie Wilson of Monaghan Mushrooms said the situation now was very different from eight years ago when the industry was expanding and they were able to compete throughout Europe. He said the two problems for producers were retail discounters and food deflation. The concept of cheap food was now politically very acceptable, he told the committee.

“It’s a very difficult situation. If we let the industry go into freefall that really would be a disaster”, he said. We must stop the industry from going into freefall, he emphasised. Already they were not able to supply all their contracts which were mainly with UK multiples. They were currently purchasing product in Poland and Holland to service the UK contracts.

“We can continue to do so for a little while but can’t go on very long”, he said. The first thing they had to ensure was to stop producers closing, because contracts would be under threat if that happened.

Mr Wilson said one measure the government could take that would be very supportive of the industry would cost very little. The industry required flexibility of labour and worked unsociable hours. He wondered if it would be possible to have a permit scheme introduced to bring in harvesters from non-EU countries in eastern Europe and that would be a very advantageous element, in his view. One or two growers had stopped operating because of the currency exchange rate, but there was also an element of some labour difficulties.

The chair of the committee Pat Deering TD told him that was a suggestion they could include in their budget submission as well.

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Senator Robbie Gallagher

EFFECT ON MONAGHAN

Senator Robbie Gallagher from Monaghan (Fianna Fáil) congratulated the mushroom industry representatives on their achievements over the past thirty years. He said they deserved great credit for building up the industry and creating 3500 jobs.

He knew Ronnie Wilson quite well, who he said had been a leading name in the mushroom industry for up to thirty years. He was a very large employer and they were fortunate to have him in County Monaghan. Of the 3500 jobs in the industry, around 1000 are in Monaghan and of those up to half were employed by Mr Wilson.

So it was a particularly difficult issue for a county like Monaghan. No other county was more exposed to this crisis than Monaghan, he said. Senator Gallagher told the committee he was sure this was a particularly stressful time for everybody in the industry, when external factors over which they had very little control could determine the future. “I can only imagine what you and everybody in the industry is going through”, he told the committee.

Words like ‘crisis’ and ‘freefall’ had been used in the presentation and it was clear to see that they were not being overused. Senator Gallagher said it was imperative that the government stepped in at this time to give the mushroom producers a bridge to get over this difficult period and to reasses where they were going.

It seemed to him that there were two main issues, namely the current threat from the fluctuation of sterling and the threat from Polish producers. The Irish producers seemed to have more concern about the first threat, he said, judging by their presentation. He wondered where they saw the industry going in future and were they confident about it? In view of the freefall in the industry he also wondered if they had had any contact with any government department in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum in the UK.

SIEGE OF JADOTVILLE

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Poster for The Siege of Jadotville Netflix film starring Jamie Dornan

Michael Fisher

The launch of the Netflix film “The Siege of Jadotville” last week marked the 55th anniversary of an important event in Irish military history. The bravery of the unit involved, ‘A’ company, 35th Battalion which was serving on United Nations peacekeeping duties in the Congo, has only now been acknowledged by the authorities.

Over the years, this group of men under the leadership of Commandant Patrick Quinlan was never given proper recognition for the courage they showed in Jadotville. The Irish soldiers resisted the secessionist Katangese forces for six days as they waited for reinforcements to reach them, but had to surrender after their supplies were exhausted. The men were then taken as prisoners of war for close to a month, but none of the 155-strong contingent was killed. 

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Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe TD accompanied by Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett presents the unit citation to Sergeant Harry Dixon 35th Infantry Battalion     Pic: Merrionstreet.ie

Last Saturday 17th September the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe T.D. hosted an event at Custume Barracks, Athlone marking the collective actions of the men of ‘A’ Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and its attachments at the Siege. The Minister presented a unit citation to the Company in recognition of their bravery and heroism. A copy of the citation was presented to each member or next-of-kin of the unit. This was the first time a unit citation had been awarded within the Irish Defence Forces. In marking this unique occasion, Minister Kehoe also commissioned an insignia recognising the professional performance of the men of ‘A’ company.

Speaking at the event the Minister said: “I am very pleased to present this Unit Citation which recognises the bravery and courage of ‘A’ Company during the Siege of Jadotville whilst cut-off from support and reinforcements. The United Nations Operation in Congo was the first peacekeeping mission in which significant numbers of Irish soldiers took part. A total of 6,000 Irish soldiers served in the Congo from 1960 until 1964 and I want to take the opportunity to recall the contribution of all who served in the various Irish contingents over the course of this long Mission.”

The Minister concluded by saying “Ireland can be justifiably proud of all our brave men and women who have contributed to the cause of peace and security. Our continued participation in United Nations missions illustrates the very positive and practical difference that small countries, like Ireland, can make in the world’s trouble spots.”

Jadotville was an event that occurred during Ireland’s peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961. ‘A’ Company of the 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on the 3rd of September. On the 9th of September they were surrounded by a large force supporting the breakaway province of Katanga. Early on the morning of the 13th September the Company came under attack from this force. Over the coming days until 17th September they endured almost continuous attacks from ground and air.

Despite their courageous resistance and the sustained efforts of 35 Infantry Battalion HQ to provide assistance, ‘A’ Company was taken into captivity on 17th September. By this time ‘A’ Company had no water and several men had been wounded. ‘A’ Company remained in captivity until finally released on 25th October 1961.

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Group of Jadotville Soldiers Picture: RTE

The men of ‘A’ Company were drawn mostly from Custume Barracks, Athlone and what was the Western Command. The Citation is as follows:-

UNIT CITATION AWARDED TO ‘A’ COMPANY, 35TH INFANTRY BATTALION

“This Citation recognises the leadership, courage, bravery and professional performance of “A” Company 35th Infantry Battalion and its attachments who, under challenging circumstances at Jadotville, while besieged by overwhelming numbers of Katanganese Gendarmerie and cut-off from support and reinforcements, did valiantly defend their position from the 13th September 1961 to 17th September 1961.”

IRISH JOURNALISTS VISIT THE SOLDIERS HELD PRISONER IN JADOTVILLE

My father the late Desmond Fisher was one of three leading Irish journalists who managed to visit the soldiers when they were held prisoners. He was accompanied on the trip by Raymond ‘Congo’ Smith from the Irish Independent and John Ross from RTE. In the accompanying article my father does not admit that he was the person who was driving the hired car that failed to stop at a gendarmerie checkpoint, but luckily they all survived to tell the tale. Nor does he mention what apparently became of the ballot papers that the journalists brought with them to hand out to the troops, who were experiencing a shortage of modern domestic essentials in their confinement. The story ends with my father’s memory of the soldiers cheering them after their one-hour visit and singing as the reporters departed: “It’s a long way to Tipperary…”

The Irish Press October 2nd 961 p.1

AN 80 M.P.H. DASH TO CAMP . . .AND THE PRISONERS CHEERED

I meet the men of Jadotville siege

(From Desmond Fisher)

JADOTVILLE, Sunday —- Today I became one of the first Irishmen since the fighting in Katanga to drive down the famous Jadotville Road, across the Lufira Bridge — which two relief columns could not pass — into the town itself to meet the 181 Irish prisoners there. The outstanding impression from our visit was that all the boys were in the best form and delighted to get the bag of mail we brought to them.

Special permission for our trip was given by President Tshombe. General Muke, head of the Katangese gendarmerie, provided an escort of a gendarmerie adjutant and a paracommando officer to ensure our safe conduct.

 Our trip had minor historic significance — with us we brought ballot papers which, if inevitable Congolese differences are straightened out in time, may enable the prisoners to vote in the General Election.

The ballot papers arrived by air from Leopoldville (a) half hour before we left. They were handed over to us at a heavily-guarded Indian roadblock outside Elizabethville by Lt.-Col. Jock Casserley, who was accompanied by Col. McNamee, O.C. of the 35th.

 The trip began at gendarmerie headquarters in Avenue de La Reine, Elizabethville, where we picked up the escort. For eighty miles we drove at eighty miles an hour in a large hired American car which, after crashing through a gendarmerie roadblock, we discovered had no brakes. By the time we had pulled up on the dead straight road the gendarmerie were out of sight and the paracommando with us laughed — and waved us on.

But we made sure to pull up at Lafira Bridge, where a strong guard and roadblocks were still maintained round the clock. We got out of the car to inspect the bridge, which has now gone into Irish history, on account of the two gallant rescue efforts to relieve the Jadotville garrison.

It was very easy to see why the rescue columns could not get through. Steep banks lead down to muddy waters and on both sides of the river is swampy ground. Upstream, about fifty yards, is the wreck of a concrete bridge blown up during the fighting.

Warning call

Clambering down the embankment to get a closer view of the bridge, we clutched for support to a strong yellow cable. Gendarmerie called out a warning that the cable was a trip-wire for the mined bridge.

On arrival at the sunbaked mining town of Jadotville, fuller of soldiers than of miners, and with boarded sidewalks closely

To page 3

The Jadotville story (p.3)

From page 1

resembling the scene for a Western film, we drove to gendarmerie headquarters. Here there was more red tape for an hour, while we drank ice-cold Simba beer and gave diplomatic pats to a naked toddler tumbling on the dusty floor of the guardroom.

In true Congolese manner the Colonel in charge demonstrated authority, but a hesitant mention of President Tshombe, whose picture hung on the wall (as on every wall) proved an open sesame.

On the steps

Finally we reached the camp, not the prison camp, but a hotel in the middle of the town which was ringed off with barbed wire and blocks across the road. Across the street from the hotel, sitting at tables in a pavement café, were Katangese gendarmerie, while others were at the road blocks.

There, sitting on the steps of the verandah of the hotel, were the Irish prisoners. When they saw us they could hardly believe we were Irish too. Then we greeted them and they were all around us, smiling and laughing.

Soon we were swapping news — we giving them the latest from the free world while they told us about their heroic four-day stand and how they felt about being prisoners. On one point they reassured us — and through us the people at home — that they are being treated very well indeed.

Best of food

They get the best of food. They also get a fry for breakfast and also have a light lunch and a good dinner. On the menu is meat, soup, cheese, vegetables, fruit and jam.

The gendarmerie do the shopping for them in the town. While it is true that they are confined to the hotel, the building is large and airy. They do physical exercises on the roof and “play games of cards, chess and so on”.

The chaplain, Father Fagan, said: “The boys also do a lot of praying”.

Co-operation

The uppermost thought in everyman’s mind is — “when will I be free?” We were able to assure them that the peace talks are going well and that there should be good news for them soon. Our own observation showed us what seemed to be genuine co-operation between the Irish prisoners and the gendarmerie.

The spirit of goodwill between the Katangans and the Irish prisoners was expressed to us in another way by our guard on the way home. “Irish, our friends,” he said. “During the fighting we could have wiped them out altogether but we bore them no (ill-will)”.

The only civilian in the camp is the interpreter with the 35th Battalion, Mike Nolan. He is a great help to the prisoners because he understands French, Swahili and other African dialects.

Heroic stand

The medical officer, Commandant J.J. Clune, said that he examined all the men and they were in the best of form. The wounded were not seriously injured and they were all responding well to treatment.

The men crowded round us for the full hour we were allowed to stay there, telling us about themselves, recording interviews and being photographed for papers, television and army records.

Of the many battles in which the Irish distinguished themselves in the Katanga fighting, none was more heroic in the face of overwhelming odds than the Jadotville garrison, and we can bear this out after our visit here.  (NOTE THIS PARAGRAPH IN PARTICULAR)

Most of the men were at Mass and those manning trenches found their positions there being rushed, and the shooting started.

4-day attacks

Commandant Quinlan thought at first that it was a local incident and told the men not to use maximum fire, though they could have mown down the gendarmerie who were moving up. For four days the Irish were under heavy attack.

First came heavy mortar barrage and Irish mortar replied with good effect. As positions spread out, Commandant Quinlan decided to withdraw after dark to stronger positions astride the main road about a mile from the town.

The men holding the forward positions fought with great courage under fire while new positions were being dug. All the troops fell back safely to the new strong positions, but they were completely surrounded on all sides. It is estimated that the gendarmerie had 3,000 in the area.

Jet attacks

The Irish were being fire at from the front, rear and sides. They had laid in water supplies when the fighting started but this became putrid. They could not leave the trenches during those four days of fierce fighting.

There were flies all over the place. The jet plane joined in the attacks and bombs fell very near the trenches where the Irish were. The jet also machine-gunned them. The Irish fired back with small arms and the jet did not come in as low afterwards.

More jet attacks followed on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday and there was also heavy mortar fire. Propaganda warfare too.

‘Indigestion’

A man purporting to be from the Red Cross rang up the Irish to say that tribesmen were coming in to attack them and would eat them. Commandant Quinlan replied “If you come and try and eat us, we will give you indigestion.”

Commandant Quinlan warned too that if there were any more mob attacks the Irish would mow them down mercilessly. Convoys were heard at night moving on to Lufira Bridge to meet the breakthrough attempt by the first relief column.

quinlan

Commandant Pat Quinlan, Commanding Officer ‘A’ Coy 35 Inf Bn

Commandant Quinlan told me of the ceasefire arranged on Saturday evening, a condition that the jet would be grounded and that the men would get water and hold their positions.

But the jet came over again on Sunday morning and the water was still not turned on. Commandant Quinlan protested about the jet and he was assured it would not happen again.

Delaying game

After the big breakthrough attempt at Lufira Bridge had been repulsed on Saturday — and Irish and Indians withdrew to Elizabethville — Katangans pulled back paracommando elite troops from the bridge to Jadotville for an all-out final attack on the Irish.

Gendarmeries were now infiltrating Irish positions on all sides and a big force was massed.

“My men were now utterly exhausted,” Commandant Quinlan said. On Sunday, he said, they played a delaying game, holding out for a ceasefire and hoping against hope that reinforcements would get through.

“When I finally realised there was no hope of relief and that if I continued the fight all my men would be massacred by vastly superior forces, I decided to save the lives of the men by parleying with Munongo, Minister of the Interior, who arrived in the late afternoon,” said Commandant Quinlan.

Signed terms

The terms signed by Commandant Quinlan were as follows “I, Commandant Patrick Quinlan, Officer Commanding Irish United Nations Troops in Jadotville, do hereby agree to the terms of surrender of Minister Munongo because the Irish force is here on a peaceful police role and any further action would result in the loss of African and Irish lives.

“I also wish to state that my troops fought only in self-defence having been fired on while attending Mass on the morning of 13th September 1961. It is also agreed that the Irish troops will have their arms stored.”

Thus ended the glorious stand which would otherwise have surely resulted in heavy loss of life on the Irish side.

As we left Jadotville after the short hour with the prisoners they gave us three rousing cheers and sang cheerfully, though rather wistfully, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”