Soldier killed in 1983 honoured


A soldier who died in 1983 during an operation to rescue a kidnapped businessman Don Tidey has been honoured today.

Private Paddy Kelly was awarded the Military Star medal almost 30 years after his killing.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter posthumously honoured the soldier at Custume Barracks in Athlone today saying Pte Kelly’s sacrifice will “never be forgotten”.

Pte Kelly’s eldest son David accepted a framed citation from the Minister and one of his other sons, Corporal Andrew Kelly a serving member of the Defence Forces, accepted the medal on behalf of the family.

Pte Kelly was killed on active service in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, in 1983, but no one has been convicted over the killing.

He was part of a joint Garda-Army operation attempting to rescue supermarket boss Don Tidey who was being held captive by an IRA gang in a forest hideout. He died when the gang attacked without warning, opened fire and threw a grenade killing Pte Kelly and trainee Garda Gary Sheehan.

Mr Shatter said today’s ceremony was both a happy and sad occasion for the family.

“Happy in that the late Pte Kelly’s ultimate sacrifice in the service of the State is being formally acknowledged, but sad also in that the occasion is bound to bring back what must be difficult memories from a difficult time in their lives”.

Last year Pte’s son David challenged Sinn Féin chief Martin McGuinness over his father’s death.

Mr Kelly confronted Mr McGuinness in a shopping centre while he was canvassing for the Irish presidency last October and demanded he answer who killed his father.

The Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister denied he knows the names of those responsible for the killing.

Maze prison escapee Brendan “Bik” McFarlane was acquitted in the Special Criminal Court in 2008 of falsely imprisoning Mr Tidey during the kidnap ordeal.

A decision to honour Pte Kelly with the Military Star was taken after a change in regulations earlier this year to honour members of the Defence Forces with the medal if they died on service at home.

It is the first time a medal has been awarded to a member of the Defence Forces who was killed on active military service in Ireland. Pte Kelly is the 41st recipient of the Military Star.