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‘Congo – An Irish Affair’. Film? Story? What’s the difference? Why does it matter?

by on November 2, 2011

The chance to visit Renmore Barracks…I’m there! Although I had already seen the documentary film Congo – An Irish Affair at this years Galway Film Fleadh I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to get inside the gates of Renmore Barracks. The film was to be shown there, by invitation, to the extended family and friends of Commandant Pat Quinlan, deceased.

Pat Quinlan led A Company during a UN peacekeeping mission to the province of Katanga in the Congo in 1961. For years A Company had been at best been scorned, ignored and passed over for promotion because of a decision he had made in absence of any direction from his authorities.


Having been left unaided and without water, food or ammunition, in the face of certain death and destruction of all his men, Quinlan took it upon himself to surrender. To surrender was dispicable.

This film seeks to redress the situation, to explain the background to the surrender and to acknowledge the heroism of Quinlan and his men.

After the viewing we all gathering for refreshments and a bit of a chat in the mess. This to me was the most interesting part of the entire night. This was when you heard ‘the real’ stories, those stories which didn’t appear in their entirety or at all on the film. Leo Quinlan, son of Pat, was eagar to add to the on screen story. Refering to the incident where two men went out to lay down a white sheet so as to direct the helicopter which was arriving with supplies to a safe landing spot he explains how the whole story wasn’t told. ‘They didn’t show how dangerous it was, they were under fire as they ran out, it was extremely dangerous. They were very brave men. The pilots were very brave too, it doesn’t tell how the warning lights were flashing all over the cockpit. They shouldn’t have been up in it at all. They were very brave men.’

This got me thinking about how a story is told, what is told and what is not told, who is telling the story…all of these factors contribute to the impact and reception of the story. But most of all it got me thinking that this is after all a ‘story’. Documentary, then, is a story based in fact?

Is féidir blaisín den scannán a fheiceáil anseo:

Taispeánfar an scannán seo ar TG4 go luath.

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