Tributes paid to driver Manus Kelly killed in crash at Donegal rally

Death of Manus Kelly, FF councillor and business man, described as ‘an immeasurable loss’

File image of Manus Kelly. Photograph: Philip Fitzpatrick

File image of Manus Kelly. Photograph: Philip Fitzpatrick


Tributes have been paid to a Fianna Fáil county councillor who was killed in a crash on Sunday afternoon on the third day of the Donegal International Rally.

Manus Kelly (41), one of Ireland’s leading rally drivers and a prominent businessman in the local area, was killed while taking part in this year’s event.

Mr Kelly’s navigator Donal Barrett was also injured in the incident and is being treated in Letterkenny University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to life-threatening.

The crash occurred at about 12.30pm at Super Stage 15 on the Fanad Head loop, which was the first of six scheduled stages on Sunday, the third and final day of the Donegal rally.

Mr Kelly’s Hyundai i20 R5 crashed midway through the Fanad Head stage, near Baile na Brocar. The car went through a hedge and into a field and was extensively damaged. Mr Kelly had won the rally for the last three years in a row .

The rest of the rally was cancelled following the incident and an investigation is under way.

Deep shock

News of his death has caused deep shock in the local and motorsport communities.

In a joint statement on Sunday, Donegal Motor Club and Motorsport Ireland said: “Donegal Motor Club and Motorsport Ireland would like to extend its sympathies to the family and friends of Manus Kelly who was fatally injured during a tragic accident while competing in the Donegal International Rally on Sunday, June 23rd, 2019.

“Our thoughts are with his family and all affected at this time.”

Mr Kelly was elected to Donegal County Council as a Fianna Fáil county councillor for the first time in the Letterkenny electoral area last month. He polled 906 first preference votes.

The scene of a fatal crash during the Donegal International Rally.
The scene of a fatal crash during the Donegal International Rally.

He was the managing director of Letterkenny-based company, Tailored Facility Solutions, which provides management, recruitment and logistics services. He was also the proprietor of the Uptown Cafe in Letterkenny.

He is survived by his wife Bernie and their five children, his parents, Donal and Jacqueline, and eight siblings.

Tributes paid

“It was obvious throughout his recent election campaign that he was passionate and entirely committed to serving the people of the Letterkenny electoral area which he cherished,” Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said on Sunday.

“Manus made a huge contribution to his community. As a self-employed businessman, he employed 60 people in Letterkenny. He was an active fundraiser and advocate for the Letterkenny University Hospital.

He said the death was “an immeasurable loss to us all”.

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD said “I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Manus Kelly who was tragically killed in today’s Donegal rally competition. Manus was a great ambassador for Irish motor sport and had a promising role in local politics. He will be sorely missed by all that knew him.”

Clerk of the course Eamonn McGee said Mr Kelly was “a great ambassador for our sport and for the Donegal rally”.

“It’s devastating news for everyone to process. Manus was such a popular character and a great competitor,” he said.

Donegal Motor Club described him as “immensely popular in the rally fraternity”.

Mr Kelly was also deeply immersed in the Glenswilly GAA club and managed them to a Senior C Championship win in 2016. He was a club-mate of Donegal captain Michael Murphy. News of the death was conveyed to the Donegal dressingroom after their win over Cavan in the Ulster SFC final.

Donegal TD Pat “the Cope” Gallagher paid tribute to Mr Kelly, saying: “A dark cloud descended over Donegal . . . when news broke of Manus’s tragic passing.”

The Fianna Fáil TD had met Mr Kelly on Friday before the rally got under way and said the county councillor had been in an upbeat mood.

“It’s a disaster,” he added.

It is understood that 70,000 spectators were attending the rally and 200 competitors were taking part this year. – Additional reporting: Donegal Daily