Radio Éireann and the Irish Army work together to keep the public at home and the troops in the Congo informed.
In 1960, the United Nations Operation in the Congo was established. This was a UN peacekeeping force sent in response to conflict in the central African nation. Ireland agreed to provide troops to the peacekeeping mission. This would be the first time a complete unit from the Irish Defence Forces served overseas. On 27th July 1960 soldiers from the 32nd Battalion left for the Congo. This was the beginning of a four-year commitment to the UN mission in the Congo where over 6,000 Irishmen served.
Radio Éireann reported extensively on the Congo conflict keeping the public at home aware of the activity of Irish troops. Radio Éireann also facilitated the recording, compilation and production of audio content to bring the Irish troops in the Congo news from home.
In collaboration with the Irish Defence Forces, Radio Éireann created two regular productions relating to the Congo, each serving a distinct purpose. 'Congo Chronicle' was a weekly programme broadcast on Radio Éireann between August 1960 and April 1963. Listeners in Ireland were brought news about how Irish troops on duty in the Congo were living and working. The programmes would include recordings made with Irish units stationed in the Congo and featured soldiers sending messages to family and friends at home.
Dateline Dublin was the other programme made by Radio Éireann and the Irish Army. This production served a separate purpose to Congo Chronicle and was not broadcast on the standard Radio Éireann longwave. Specifically made for the Irish soldiers serving in the Congo, 'Dateline Dublin' kept them informed about events at home. Recorded at the Radio Éireann studios, the programme consisted of national and provincial news from Ireland, army updates, sports results and messages from family and friends. The programme was made by civilian producers at Radio Éireann with Defence Forces personnel. The completed productions were recorded on tape and flown to Radio Brazzaville, in the Congo, for transmission.
Despite being very popular with the soldiers, Dateline Dublin was not without issues. The tape containing a new episode of Dateline Dublin would reach the Congo one week after leaving Ireland. This created difficulties with current affairs and army news reported in the programme. As Dateline Dublin was broadcast at a set time during the week, soldiers on duty or patrols would often miss the broadcast that included greetings from family members. In a report from Sergeant G.E. Enright to Radio Éireann other complaints about broadcasts from the Congo can be found,
In an episode of Congo Chronicle, Captain Jack Millar press officer with the Irish Army outlines the content created for Dateline Dublin and how the troops get to hear the finished programme. Taped material would be sent in from the various units stationed around the Congo, and these tapes would be played as part of the programme. A Congo Chronicle episode often ended with some of the soldiers sending messages and greetings to family and friends at home in Ireland.
He also explains some of the challenges faced by the United Nations and the Irish Defence Forces as a result of the conflict in the Congo.
It is a fairly open secret that the United Nations were not really geared for an operation of this kind. They did not have the facilities to support it.
Captain Jack Millar outlines some of the issues with communication between Ireland and the Congo, including the delay with sending and receiving letters.
The Irish Army's first overseas mission to Congo was a significant occasion in the history of the state, and it is clear from the extensive radio coverage at the time, that the Irish public were particularly interested in keeping up to date with their countrymen abroad.
This episode of Congo Chronicle was broadcast in 1960. The presenter is John Ross. Congo Chronicle was broadcast weekly between August 1960 and April 1963.
Episodes of Congo Chronicle and Dateline Dublin are among the many recordings of interest to be found in the collection of acetate discs held by RTÉ Archives. The RTÉ Acetate Disc Collection has been digitised for long term preservation with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Archiving Scheme.