A memorial stone has been unveiled to an Irish soldier shot dead by the Provisional IRA 40 years ago during the rescue of Don Tidey.
Pte Patrick Kelly (36) and recruit Garda Gary Sheehan (23) died when a Provisional IRA gang opened fire on them after they came across the hideout in a Co Leitrim wood where Mr Tidey had been kept for 23 days on December 16th, 1983.
The memorial stone is in Ballinamuck, Co Longford where Pte Kelly grew up. It was initiated by an army comrade of Pte Kelly’s, Pat Donnelly, who is also chairman of the Longford Historical Society, and supported by Longford County Council.
Among those present at the unveiling on Friday was Irish army officer Kieran Dalton, who had been tasked with breaking the news to Pte Kelly’s parents that their son had been killed. Sgt Andrew Kelly, who was only 10 weeks old when his father was murdered, raised the tricolour following the ceremony.
Pte Kelly’s eldest son, David Kelly, who was nine at time, has criticised Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.
He said the presence of Maze escapee Brendan “Bik” McFarlane at a Sinn Féin online St Patrick’s Day concert in 2021 during Covid-19 was a “gratuitous insult” to his family and the Sheehan family. He called on party president Mary Lou McDonald to apologise for her presence at the same concert.
Mr Kelly said McFarlane has been asked to explain how his fingerprints were found in items recovered from the hideout after Mr Tidey was rescued, but he has failed to do so. McFarlane was arrested in 1998 in connection with the kidnapping of Mr Tidey, but the case against him collapsed following a lengthy legal battle in 2008.
“He [McFarlane] is not talking. I have asked him twice to make a public explanation as to what his fingerprints were doing there. He has never given an adequate explanation so Sinn Féin have serious questions to answer,” Mr Kelly said after the ceremony.
He also said that Ms McDonald had promised in an interview with the Westmeath Independent in 2020 that she would help get answers for the family.
“It is galling for me to see Sinn Féin portraying themselves as the party of law and order when families like mine are still looking for answers today.”
The unveiling, with full military honours, was carried out at the Ballinamuck Garden of Remembrance by Minister of State Jack Chambers on behalf of the Government.
Mr Chambers described Pte Kelly as a “dedicated and hard-working member of the Defence Forces who served his country and the United Nations with distinction, honour and dedication on peacekeeping duties in Lebanon and Cyprus”.
“His distinguished service and the ultimate sacrifice he made speaks volumes of the risks the men and women of our Defence Forces place themselves in to keep others safe and well.”
He said the “indiscriminate killings – by IRA terrorists allegedly in the name of ‘republicanism’ – was an atrocity that shocked the nation”.
“I know that no words I, or any others, can offer on the tragic killings will ever properly encapsulate the feeling of loss felt by his family – his late wife Caitríona, his children and all those who knew Pte Kelly the best.”
Asked about the family’s comments, a Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “Numerous Sinn Féin representatives, including Mary Lou McDonald, have said that the loss of a serving member of the Defence Forces, Pte Patrick Kelly, was wrong and should not have happened in any set of circumstances.”