Ireland, the United Nations and the Congo

A military and diplomatic history, 1960–1


Michael Kennedy & Art Magennis

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ISBN: 978-1-84682-656-6
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ISBN: 978-1-84682-523-1

(Hbk. 2014; Pbk. March 2017). 288pp; ills.

In 1961 Irish United Nations peacekeepers went into combat in the Congolese province of Katanga. It was the Irish Defence Forces’ first experience of active service since 1923. Irish diplomat Conor Cruise O’Brien headed the UN mission in Katanga. Former chief of staff of the defence forces, Lt-Gen. Seán MacEoin, was in overall command of UN troops in Congo. Irish units suffered casualties and men taken prisoner as the fighting in Katanga continued. The crisis now facing Taoiseach Seán Lemass became the most delicate and dangerous chapter in Ireland’s foreign relations since 1945. Based on a first-hand account of the fighting by an Irish cavalry officer, previously unseen UN archives and the papers of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, this book covers eighteen critical months from July 1960 to December 1961, which almost tore the UN apart and which brought the realities of UN membership to Ireland. A military and diplomatic history, this book is an Irish perspective on a defining moment in the history of the United Nations, the Cold War and modern Africa.

Michael Kennedy is the executive editor of the Royal Irish Academy’s Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series. He has published widely on modern Irish diplomatic and military history. Commandant (ret.) Art Magennis served with the Irish Defence Forces from 1940 to 1979. He undertook two tours of duty in Congo and was second-in-command of the 35th Battalion’s Armoured Car Group in Elisabethville, Katanga, in 1961.