seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The Niemba Ambush

The Niemba ambush takes place on November 8, 1960, when an Irish Army platoon in Congo-Léopoldville is ambushed, the first time the Irish Army is embroiled in battle since the founding of the Irish state in 1922. The Republic of Ireland had deployed troops as United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) peacekeepers.

After the Belgian Congo becomes independent (as Republic of the Congo) in 1960, a civil war breaks out in Katanga, the southern, mineral-rich province of the Congo. A local political leader, Moïse Tshombe, declares Katanga an independent state. United Nations peacekeeping troops are invited to help restore order and to end the Katanga secession.

The Luba people or “Baluba” ethnic group do not support the Katangese secession. As a result they come under attack from pro-Katangese and allied forces. On October 4, several villages are attacked by Katangese gendarmes and European mercenaries and many Baluba are massacred. This leaves them suspicious of and hostile to any white European troops. Irish troops are sent to the area to secure it and encourage local people to return.

On November 8, 1960 an eleven-man section from the Irish Army’s 33rd Battalion arrives at the bridge over the Luweyeye River. They are forced to leave their vehicles when they encounter a blockade on the road. While clearing it, they encounter about 100 Luba militiamen armed with bows, poison-tipped arrows, spears and clubs, as well as some guns. While the Irish troops had arrived to protect the Baluba, the militia undoubtedly mistakes them for Katangese mercenaries. Lieutenant Kevin Gleeson, advancing unarmed with his platoon sergeant, Hugh Gaynor, attempt to greet them peacefully, but is hit with a barrage of poison-tipped arrows.

Gleeson and Gaynor are overtaken, beaten and hacked to death. The surprised Irish soldiers, who had not been deployed in a defensive formation after dismounting from their vehicles, retreat behind trees on either side of the road and open fire on the tribesmen with their Gustav submachine guns, Lee–Enfield rifles and Bren light machine guns. The Baluba however advance on them, and the Irish are cut off from their vehicles. Despite taking heavy losses, the Baluba overrun the Irish soldiers and fierce hand-to-hand fighting breaks out, during which most of the Irish troops are killed.

The surviving Irish troops regroup by a ridge but are surrounded by the Baluba. They fight to hold them off but their position is rapidly overrun and all but three of them are killed. The three survivors manage to escape. One of them, Anthony Browne, reaches a nearby village and gives all the money he has to the village women, hoping they will get him help, but is instead mobbed and beaten to death by the village men. His body is recovered two years later. The two surviving soldiers manage to hide and are found by other UN troops the following day.

A total of nine Irish soldiers die: Lt. Kevin Gleeson of Carlow, Sgt. Hugh Gaynor of Blanchardstown, Cpl. Peter Kelly of Templeogue, Cpl. Liam Dougan of Cabra, Pt. Matthew Farrell of Jamestown, Dublin, Tpr. Thomas Fennell of Donnycarney, Tpr. Anthony Browne of Rialto, Pte. Michael McGuinn of Carlow, and Pte. Gerard Killeen of Rathmines. Some 25 Baluba are also killed.

The bodies of the Irish dead are flown to Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, where they lay in state. Lt. Kevin Gleeson’s coffin is placed on a gun carriage, while those of the rest are placed on army trucks. Following a funeral procession through Dublin, they are buried at Glasnevin Cemetery.

A stone commemorating Lt. Gleeson can be found in his hometown of Carlow while a plaque commemorating Sgt. Hugh Gaynor can be found in his hometown of Blanchardstown.

The notoriety of the attack, and the allegations of mutilation and cannibalism that circulate in the Irish popular press in its aftermath, lead to the word “baluba” (sometimes spelled “balooba”) becoming a synonym for any “untrustworthy and barbaric” individual in certain parts of Ireland.

(Pictured: Baluba militiamen in 1962)


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Birth of Gay Byrne, Radio & Television Presenter

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 90Gabriel Mary “Gay” Byrne, veteran Irish presenter of radio and television for several decades and affectionately known as Uncle Gay, Gaybo or Uncle Gaybo, is born in Rialto, Dublin on August 5, 1934. His most known role is as the first host of The Late Late Show over a 37-year period spanning 1962 until 1999.

Byrne attends Rialto National School and a number of other schools for short periods. Subsequently, he is educated by the Irish Christian Brothers at Synge Street CBS.

When he is young, Byrne is inspired by the broadcaster Eamonn Andrews, who has a successful career on British television. In 1958 he moves over to broadcasting when he becomes a presenter on Radio Éireann. He also works with Granada Television and the BBC in England. At Granada, Byrne becomes the first person to introduce the Beatles on television when they make their small screen debut on local news programme People and Places. In 1961, Telefís Éireann, later Radio Telefís Éireann and now Raidió Teilifís Éireann, is established. Byrne works exclusively for the new Irish service after 1969. He introduced many popular programmes, with his most popular and successful programme being The Late Late Show.

On July 5, 1962, the first episode of The Late Late Show is aired on Irish television. Originally the show is scheduled as an eight-week summer filler. The programme, which is still broadcast, has become the world’s second longest running chat show. The show has much to do in shaping the new Ireland that emerges from the 1960s. Byrne presents his last edition of The Late Late Show on May 21, 1999, where he is presented with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle by Bono and Larry Mullen, Jr. Pat Kenny succeeds him as presenter in September 1999.

From 1973 until 1998, Byrne also presents The Gay Byrne Hour, later The Gay Byrne Show when it expands to two hours, on RTÉ Radio 1 each weekday morning.

Byrne does not completely retire in 1999 and continues to feature occasionally on radio and television after leaving The Late Late Show and The Gay Byrne Show, presenting several other programmes, including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, The Meaning of Life and For One Night Only on RTÉ One and Sunday Serenade/Sunday with Gay Byrne on RTÉ lyric fm. He launches Joe Duffy‘s autobiography Just Joe in Harry’s Bar in October 2011.

In 1988, Byrne is presented an honorary doctorate in literature from Trinity College, Dublin. In 2006 he is elected Chairman of Ireland’s Road Safety Authority, a public body given the task of improving road safety in the Republic of Ireland. Since retiring he has become the “Elder Lemon of Irish broadcasting.”

On a November 21, 2016 live radio broadcast Byrne reveals that he is to begin treatment for prostate cancer and that the cancer may have also spread to his lower back. He tells listeners he will be taking a break of just one week before returning to work, however, he continues to recover from treatment and he has not yet been back on air.