Son of soldier killed by IRA wants victims at centre of election talks

Northern Ireland’s politicians are told truth and reconciliation commission is needed

The bodies of Pte Patrick Kelly and Garda Peter Gary Sheehan are removed from woodlands in  Leitrim: David Kelly says his father deserves justice for the sacrifice he made for the State. Photograph: Pat Langan

The bodies of Pte Patrick Kelly and Garda Peter Gary Sheehan are removed from woodlands in Leitrim: David Kelly says his father deserves justice for the sacrifice he made for the State. Photograph: Pat Langan

 

The son of an Irish soldier who was killed by the IRA during an operation aimed at saving a kidnapped businessman in 1983 has called on Northern Ireland’s politicians to put Troubles victims at the heart of post-election talks.

David Kelly (42), from Moate, Co Westmeath, addressed the Senate Chamber at Parliament Buildings in Belfast on Monday during an event organised by Jim Allister (TUV), Robin Swann (UUP) and Colin McGrath (SDLP) to mark European Day of Remembrance of Victims of Terrorism.

Mr Kelly’s father, Pte Patrick Kelly, was the first Irish soldier to be killed in a hostile act on home soil since the Civil War of the 1920s.

Pte Kelly, a father of four, was fatally injured on December 16th, 1983 while responding to the kidnapping of businessman Don Tidey in woodlands in Co Leitrim. Garda recruit Gary Sheehan was also killed.

“My father was hit with machine gun fire from his ankles all the way up to his neck,” said Mr Kelly. “He wasn’t shot in the heart or head and that meant he survived for another 20 minutes. The gunman had secured the area so [Pte Kelly’s] comrades could hear him moaning in pain as he slowly bled to death but they couldn’t get to him.”

Mr Kelly travelled to Belfast to give his testimony because he said his father deserved justice for the sacrifice he made for the State. He said nearly two decades had passed since the Belfast Agreement and “victims have been left behind”.

“All I want is to see someone held to account in a court of law,” he said.

Proposed pension

Among the contributors from across Ireland was former UDR soldier Noel Downey (53), from Maguiresbridge, Co Fermanagh, who lost his left leg and sustained other injuries in an IRA bomb explosion on June 10th, 1990 in Lisnaskea.

Mr Downey is one those who would benefit from a proposed pension for the seriously injured which political parties are in disagreement over because of different views on whether a small number of perpetrators of violence injured during the conflict should receive payments too.

“It’s ridiculous when you think of it,” he said. “Compensate people like myself who deserve it and these guys can take steps to try and get it after but holding people like myself back is wrong.”

Dr Finian Fallon (50) from Dublin said he still hoped for justice in connection with the murder of his father Garda Richard Fallon, who was killed on Arran Quay in 1970.

He said there needed to be “a truth and reconciliation commission, as they did in South Africa, but I do believe institutions North and South are afraid of that because it will force them to reveal their hand in terms of some things they were involved with during the Troubles at the start and all the way through”.

South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) and Innocent Victims United spokesman Kenny Donaldson described the testimonies of victims and survivors as “powerful and thought-provoking”.

SEFF advocacy manger Ken Funston’s brother Ronnie was killed by the IRA at his farm on the Fermanagh-Donegal Border 33 years ago on Monday.

“It is very important that victims of terrorism are never forgotten,” Mr Funston (56) said. He called on loyalists and republicans to “tell the truth”.