Honouring, caring and remembering as Congo veterans meet

Noel Hoyne

Pics by Gary Blakely

In 2023 it was decided by the National Executive of IUNVA that there would be planned events during the months of May to June 2024 to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the ending of the Congo mission 1960-64, during which time twelve different units from the Defence Forces deployed. A total of twenty-six Irish soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice during the deployments.

It was decided at a post meeting that Post 8 Kilkenny would seek permission from the Barrack Commander of the 3rd Infantry Battalion to hold a ceremony during the month of May 2024. The response was quick and positive, so the planning commenced in early March. It was decided to invite Posts from neighbouring counties to participate in what would now be called a regional event. Post 3 Wexford and Post 29 Carlow agreed to be part of the parade.

The committee for the parade met several times members included, Willie Dunne (catering), Anthony Coy (band), Fran O’Neill (outdoor setup), Ollie Cullen (Certificates), Ger Barry (seating), Pat Phelan (Congo Cross). It is testament to all the hard-working committee members that the event was meticulous in its planning , well attended and received by all those who attended. The point of contact with Post 3 was Willie Gilbert and Post 29 was John Kelly and close liaison was maintained with them throughout the planning process.

In all, twenty-seven veterans were scheduled to receive their certificates of appreciation. Unfortunately, Congo veteran Jim Redmond from Wexford went to his eternal reward just two weeks before the parade. There were twelve from Kilkenny, six from Wexford and eight from Carlow. The veterans on parade were William Bolger, Charles Callinan, Patrick Coalman, George Coady, Dermot Culleton, Mick Darby, Dominic Doyle, Joe Doyle, John Dreelan, James Dwyer, Michael Guidrea, Johnny Hardy, John Hennessy, Patrick Horahan, Noel Hoyne, Hugh Kelly, Sean Kennedy, Henry Lawlor, Kevin McGarry, Joseph McGrath, Richard O’Connor, John O’Shea, Thomas Ryan, Daniel Sullivan, Kieran Walsh and Richard Wickham.

The day commenced with a display of vintage and modern military equipment and vehicles in the vicinity of the Gymnasium.

The parade commenced when Michael Furlong handed over to Lt Col Robert Kearney. The MC Larry Scallan then outlined the days events and then read out the Congo roll of honour. Major General (Retired) Kieran Brennan praised the veterans on parade for their loyalty, professionalism and their steadfastness throughout what was a pathfinder mission for all future Defence Forces deployments.

During the presentation of certificates each Congo Veteran had his number, name and missions called out before he was awarded his certificate. Lt Col Kearney and Kieran Brennan awarded the certs.

On conclusion of the presentation ceremony there was a standing ovation for the men on parade , complemented by an extended round of applause.

Messages from an Tánaiste Michael Martin, Minister for Defence and Chief of Staff Lt General Sean Clancy were read.

There was a break in the ceremony while all in attendance moved to the Barracks memorial for the Congo Cross unveiling. The Pipe band played suitable musical honours on the route to the garden.

The memorial garden ceremony commenced with IUNVA Chairman Derek Judge and Secretary John (Stoney) Burke unveiling the Congo Cross which had been erected by post eight members Pat Phelan and Joe Darcy with help from Michael Furlong, Billy Dunne and members of the post.

Derek gave a short address outlining the history of the erecting of the original cross in Niemba in 1961. He also commended the veterans on parade and how proud the association is to be to make events such as this happen.

A wreath laying ceremony saw mayor of Kilkenny Joe Malone laying the first wreath, followed by post three, post 29, Mr Sean Power (son of Cpl John Power who died in 1962 36th Bn)) President of James Stephens branch of the ONE Comdt’ retired Bobby Kearney.

The parade was then called to attention and saluted while the Last Post, Reville and the National Anthem were rendered by the Buglers and Pipe band.

All in attendance were then invited to the dining complex to enjoy some finger food and tea and coffee.

The final acts of the Afternoon were a tree planting ceremony where all Congo vets were invited to assist in the planting of an apple tree close to the oratory. Mass was celebrated by Fr Jim Murphy and the NCO’s mess was open for some refreshments.

A spokesman for Post eight said it was an honour and a privilege to conduct this most important event for our veterans where old friendships were rekindled, and many stories of hardship, friendship and comradeship were regaled into the evening.

Speaking to The Kilkenny Observer Newspaper , Commandant ( retired) Larry Scallan thanked everyone for their great work in making the day so special.

Larry thanked Lt Col Kearney for making all the barrack facilities available to IUNVA, and to his staff for making the day run so smoothly .

“To all who assisted in any way, post eight would like to express their deep appreciation on a day which is about honouring, caring and remembering”,concluded Mr Scallan.


There will be a Certificate of appreciation presented to families of Congo

Veterans who have gone before us at an event during the Summer.

Please send the details of any Congo veterans to post8secetary@gmail.com.


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