Michael O'Regan: Ireland's Defense Minister, Willie O'Dea, To Examine Archives On 1960 Congo Deaths

Roundup: Talking About History

Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea is to examine Army archives following a claim of conflicting accounts of the death of Irish soldiers in the Congo 45 years ago.

The Minister gave the commitment to Tony Gregory (Independent, Dublin Central) who said the Minister had repeated the inaccuracy, highlighted in a recent book (The Irish Army in the Congo, 1960/1964: The Far Battalions by David O'Donoghue) that nine members of the Defence Forces were killed in Niemba.

The new publication documented the fact that the records in the military archives, and in the history of the 33rd battalion, stated that eight members of the patrol died at Niemba and that Trooper Anthony Browne had died some days later, nearly three miles away, in a separate incident.

"The official version, contained in the Minister's reply, is that nine soldiers died at Niemba. However, the historically recorded version in the military archives, for whatever reason, has never been translated into parliamentary replies," said Mr Gregory.

He said it was important to determine which version was correct because it had been a significant incident, with the largest single loss of life in the history of the Defence Forces.

He suggested that the Minister consider asking an independent historian to examine the issue to verify the correct version and set the record straight.

"The two survivors of the ambush have maintained that Trooper Browne died elsewhere," he said. "Private Tom Kenny has persistently stated that he wants the record put straight."

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