The Fighting Irish in Congo (Film Review: “The Siege of Jadotville”)

The true-life David & Goliath story of an Irish battalion sent to Congo on a peacekeeping mission for the United Nations in 1961. Attacked by Congolese loyalists and French mercenaries and outnumbered 20-to-1, not a single Irish soldier lost his life in the 5-day battle.


SnapShot Plot

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and a fitting time to show some respect to the fighting Irish, not Notre Dame’s football team but the Irish Army, in an action packed historical war picture that’s anything but blarney. The Siege at Jadotville  tells the true story of Ireland’s A Company, a band of 155 mostly untried soldiers, deployed in September 1961 during the United Nations intervention in the Katanga conflict in Congo-Léopoldville, in Central Africa. Their leader is Commandant Pat Quinlan, stoically and believably portrayed by Jamie Dornan (The Fall; 50 Shades of Gray franchise).

In a story which unfolds with diplomatic trickery and sovereign manipulations, the basic plot traces the mission of A Company – as ordered by the UN – to protect the remote mining town of Jadotville in the early days of a civil war in Congo. Meanwhile, behind the scenes in New York City, the legendary Secretary General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjöld is deeply embroiled in the situation while Irish UN advisor, Dr. Conor Cruise O’Brien launches a military attack named Operation Morthor against French and Belgian mercenaries. Quinlan and his men are then attacked for five days in a relentless siege by 3,000 Katangese soldiers and mercenary troops. The odds couldn’t be more stacked against them, and surrender may their only hope of survival.



“We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey.”


Parting Shot

The Siege of Jadotville is based on the book by Declan Power. It seems director, Richie Smyth got this story historically accurate all the way through, including the desperation of the battle-weary soldiers and their frustration over the lack of support by UN forces. In the closing credits, we learn that upon returning home, not only were the Irish soldiers treated with derision by their country, (they were called ‘Jadotville Jacks’ for years) none of them was recognized for their valor and the whole affair was swept under the rug of history. All that changed in 2016, when the Irish government awarded a Presidential Unit Citation to A Company, the first in the State’s history. It was the last engagement of the United Nations Operation in the Congo peacekeeping mission to use Irish and Swedish troops in hostile action. Today, a portrait of Pat Quinlan hangs in the Congo Room of the Irish Defence Forces’ UN School.

So Happy St. Patrick’s Day to All, and some fitting final words as written by Scottish essayist, satirist and historian Thomas Carlyle, “War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle.”


The Siege of Jadotville is presently streaming on Netflix.

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