On Saturday, 15th July, Balbriggan & District Historical Society hosted a Commemoration in honour of Pte. Terence Mc Mahon from Balbriggan, who took part in the Siege of Jadotville in the Congo in 1961 at the age of just 16.
The heroic efforts of the 155 soldiers of A Company 35th Battalion UN forces who held out against an opposition force of more than 3000, has been used as a case study for foreign armies, but has only recently been acknowledged at home.
The really moving occasion, attended by a large crowd, commenced with a Commemorative Mass at St. Peter & Paul’s Church celebrated by Fr. Eugene Taaffe PP assisted by Fr. Anthony Gill and Fr. Liam Cuffe, son of Jadotville veteran Sgt Geoffrey Cuffe, with Irish United Nations Veterans Association Colour party in attendance. After Mass there was a parade to George’s Square where a Commemorative Plaque was unveiled by County Mayor, Cllr Mary McCamley with Irish Defence Forces in attendance.
May McKeon spoke about her own memories of Terry as a boy growing up in Balbriggan and of her amazement when she heard the story of his involvement at Jadotville from his brother, Anthony. When Terry returned home he never spoke about these events, as they were ordered not to and even his own family didn’t know of his heroic past until recent years.
Anthony praised the work of Jadotville veteran, John Gorman in campaigning to get their story told and Cmmt Leo Quinlan, son of Cmmt Pat Quinlan who commanded the troops at Jadotville, gave an excellent talk on the siege and on the campaign for recognition. It was poignant that among the many Defence Forces and UN veterans in attendance was Mick Dunne, who himself was a veteran of Jadotville.
Before unveiling the plaque, the Mayor said, “It’s fitting that we have come together today to remember Terry, here in George’s Square where he was born and raised. It’s so important that we remember the contribution of Irish soldiers who have served with UN missions across the world.”
This was a fitting tribute to Terence and an important day for his native Balbriggan and his extended family, particularly his brothers John and Anthony and sister Julia, who travelled from America for the occasion.
Balbriggan & District Historical Society would like to thank everyone, too numerous to mention who attended and assisted on the day to make this such a great occasion and acknowledge the generous support for this project from Fingal County Council and Heritage Officer, Gerry Clabby.