Nearly 30 years after his death in woodland outside Ballinamore, Private Patrick Kelly has been posthumously honoured with a Military Star Medal. Private Kelly was killed on active service during Don Tidey kidnapping.
On Monday, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter honoured the late Private Kelly as the 41st recipient of The Military Star and the first to receive the award as a result of a hostile action or act in the course of military service inside the state.
On December 16, 1983 Private Kelly died while taking part in an Aid to the Civil Power operation to rescue kidnapped businessman Don Tidey in Derrada Wood near Ballinamore Co, Leitrim.
He died when the Army and Gardai Personnel searching for the kidnappers of Mr Tidey were attacked without warning.
The gang opened fire and threw a grenade killing Private Patrick Kelly and trainee Garda Gary Sheehan. No one has been convicted in connection with their deaths.
Minister Shatter welcomed members of Patrick’s family and acknowledged that for them the occasion was both a happy and sad occasion, “happy in that the late Private 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”. The Minister also extended a special welcome to the ceremony to Don Tidey and his wife Barbara.
In presenting the Military Star the Minister recalled that Patrick’s wife, Katherina, had sadly passed away in 2010, but said he knew that if she had been present “she would have been very proud of her husband” .
He concluded by saying that he hoped “the award of this medal, and the knowledge that Paddy’s sacrifice will never be forgotten will bring Paddy’s family some comfort and some peace.”
Private Kelly’s eldest son David accepted the 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.
To date the Military Star was awarded to members of Óglaigh na hÉireann who were killed in service as a result of a hostile action or act in the course of military service outside the state.
Minister Shatter accepted earlier this year the recommendation of a Medals Review Group that the award of the Military Star medal under the same conditions be extended to members who died in service at home. Consequently this is the first time this medal is being awarded to a member who was killed on active military service in Ireland.
At the Ceremony Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lieutenant General Sean McCann said: “Today is a solemn day as the Military Star Medal is awarded to the Kelly Family and we recognise in a special way the ultimate sacrifice Private Patrick Kelly made in the defence of his country.
“Private Patrick Kelly was a loyal servant of the state, a family man and a true patriot, it is heartening to see that his son, Corporal Andrew Kelly, is continuing the Kelly family’s proud tradition of service to Óglaigh na hÉireann and the country.”