1960 – Remember Niemba

niemba inside

The Munster Tribune, 11 November 1960

In November of 1960 a new word entered the Irish lexicon, a term of abuse that was aimed at someone thought to be especially uncivilised, savage or backward: “Baluba”. The word was derived from the name of a Congolese tribe, members of which, on 8 November 1960, attacked and killed 9 Irish soldiers who were on UN peace keeping duty in The Congo, in central Africa. These deaths were the first that the Irish Army had suffered on foreign soil, and stunned an Irish population that took immense pride in the role that her soldiers played overseas. In the absence of reliable reporting the Irish media filled in the blanks themselves, with the result that all manner of tales of barbarity were circulated to an ever-increasingly shocked nation. The nine soldiers were given state funerals and buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. The Niemba ambush remains the single greatest loss of Irish live on a UN Peacekeeping mission.

The two survivors of Niemba were Privates Tom Kenny and Joe Fitzpatrick, whilst the following fell:

Lt. Kevin Gleeson

Sgt. Hugh Gaynor

Cpl. Peter Kelly

Cpl. Liam Dougan

Pte. Matthew Farrell

TPR. Thomas Fennell

TPR. Anthony Browne

Pte. Michael McGuinn

Pte. Gerard Killeen

Munster Tribune, 11 November 1960