Posthumous award of the Military Star to Private Patrick Kelly (RIP)
Custume Barracks, Athlone
16 July 2012
Secretary General, Chief of Staff, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great honour for me to be here today in Custume Barracks for this ceremony to mark the posthumous award of An Réalt Míleata, the Military Star, to the late Private Patrick Kelly (RIP).
At the outset I would especially like to welcome members of Paddy’s family for whom it must be 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.
I would also like to extend a special welcome to Mr. Don Tidey and his wife Barbara. As all present will know only too well, Mr. Tidey was the person whom Private Kelly and his colleagues were seeking to locate and rescue on that fateful day in 1983.
The Military Star, which was inaugurated on 10 September 1998, is awarded posthumously to personnel of the Defence Forces who gave up their lives as a result of a hostile action or act in the course of service on approved military duties overseas. Up until earlier this year the medal could only be awarded in respect of service that occurred outside of the State, but following my acceptance of the recommendations of an earlier Medals Review Group that “the award of the Military Star medal be extended to members who died in service at home as a direct result of hostile action or act perpetrated by an enemy, opposing armed force, hostile belligerent or other party involving the use of firepower or other lethal weapon, while on approved military duties,” it became possible to recognise the sacrifice made by the late Private Kelly on 16 December 1983.
On Friday the 16th of December 1983 Private Kelly was taking part in an operation in Derrada Wood near Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim which was seeking to rescue Mr. Tidey who had been kidnapped by an IRA gang. Private Kelly and a young trainee Garda, Gary Sheehan, came across the gang who opened fire without warning. They also threw a grenade. Unfortunately, both Private Kelly and Trainee Garda Sheehan lost their lives in the incident.
Private Kelly, who was the first solider to be killed in this country since the civil war, was only thirty five years old at the time; Garda Sheehan was just twenty three. Private Kelly was a conscientious and hard working member of the Defence Forces who had previously served his country and the United Nations with distinction on peacekeeping duties in both Lebanon and Cyprus.
Private Kelly was married to Katherina. At the time of Paddy’s death they had four young children David, Michael, Patrick and Andrew. Andrew has carried on the proud military tradition of the Kelly family and is a Corporal in the Military Police here in Custume Barracks. Sadly, Katherina passed away in 2010. I know she would have been very proud of her husband had she been here today.
Following the implementation of the legislative change required to allow the Military Star to be awarded in respect of an action that took place here in Ireland, the Chief of Staff convened a Military Board to review the circumstances of the events of 16 December 1983. Having considered what occurred on that day the Board’s recommendation was that Private Kelly should be awarded the Military Star. The Chief of Staff forwarded the report of the Board to me with a confirmation that he fully supported its recommendation.
Having considered all documents relevant to the case, I had no hesitation in confirming that Private Kelly was without doubt deserving of the award of the Military Star and, indeed, that there could be no finer recipient of the first Military Star to be awarded for service within the State than Private Kelly.
So on behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland I will shortly present the Military Star to Paddy’s son, Corporal Andrew Kelly. I will also present a framed copy of the medal citation to Paddy’s son, David.
I hope 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.
Finally, I would like to thank each and every one of you for attending this ceremony.
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