Town honours murdered soldier

 

Kidnapping recalled: Memorial opened to soldier who died in Tidey release

BUSINESSMAN DON Tidey has made a rare public appearance to lay a wreath at a memorial park dedicated to a soldier who died freeing him 25 years ago.

Mr Tidey was one of the guests at the unveiling of the Patrick Kelly Memorial Park in Moate, Co Westmeath named after the only Irish soldier to die in combat on home soil since the end of the Civil War.

Pte Kelly, who was from Moate, was killed along with Garda recruit Gary Sheehan in a shoot-out with Provisional IRA kidnappers at Derrada Woods in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim on December 16th, 1983, 25 years ago to the day of yesterday’s unveiling.

Pte Kelly was 35 when he died. He left a wife, Caitríona and four sons ranging in age from nine to just 11 weeks.

Mr Tidey, who is now 73, laid a wreath along with the chairman of Westmeath County Council, Joe Whelan.

Cllr Whelan described Pte Kelly as a “gentleman” whose interests were his family, the Defence Forces and cars.

The ceremony was attended by soldiers serving in the 4 Western Brigade and the Irish United Veterans Association, who honoured Pte Kelly’s three tours of duty with the UN. The Garda was represented by Assistant Garda Commissioner Fintan Fanning.

A memorial Mass was held for Pte Kelly afterwards at the Carmelite church in the town.

American-born Mr Tidey, who was the chairman of the Associated British Food Company, which owned Quinnsworth at the time, did not speak to the media following the ceremony.

He had, however, recalled his ordeal in a public forum earlier this year during the trial of Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, who was acquitted of any involvement in the kidnapping.

Mr Tidey, who was held for 23 days, described the circumstances of his release as being like a “battleground”.

The Kelly family emigrated to London two years after the incident. Ms Kelly was just 30 at the time of her husband’s killing and says she is now hoping to return to Ireland to live and work and join her sons, David (34), Michael (31), Patrick (29) and Andrew (25) who have all returned home.

Andrew has now followed his father into the Army.

She said yesterday’s ceremony made her both “happy and sad”.

“This is a marvellous occasion and my sons are so happy. They were very young at the time and it has put their minds at rest really.”

Her eldest son, David, thanked Westmeath County Council for organising the ceremony and dedicating the memorial park, which includes a children’s playground, to his father.

“It is a very sad day for us and yet a very proud day for us. I’m very proud of my mother and my brothers. They are very resilient.”

Mr Kelly said the family were resigned to the belief that nobody would ever be prosecuted for the crimes committed at Derrada Woods. “We have to draw a line under it. It looks like no one will ever be prosecuted for the murder of my father or the Garda recruit,” he said.

Brig Gen Gerry Hegarty, the general officer commanding 4 Western Brigade, said many members of the Defence Forces who knew Pte Kelly remain angry that nobody has been convicted of his murder. “Paddy was a much respected colleague. He was a real soldier and to have a soldier gunned down at home is a lot different to being murdered overseas. It was people like Paddy Kelly who defended this State when it needed defending against those bent on its destruction.

“Until somebody is held to account for that murder, we will still be angry about it.

“I think everybody knows who was responsible on that day and we would like to see somebody brought to account for it.”