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"Who killed my father?"

Story by Karen Downey

Wednesday, 12th October, 2011 6:00pm

"Who killed my father?"

Presidential candidate Martin McGuinness is confronted by David Kelly. Photo Ann Hennessy

Moate man David Kelly confronted presidential hopeful Martin McGuinness on Monday while he was canvassing in Athlone, branding the Sinn Féin politician a liar and calling on him to reveal the names of those who killed his father, Private Paddy Kelly.

Private Kelly was killed along alongside Garda recruit Gary Sheehan in 1983 while involved in the rescue of supermarket boss Don Tidey, who was being held by the Provisional IRA in Derrada Woods, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim.

The dramatic development occurred when Mr Kelly doorstepped Mr McGuinness at Golden Island Shopping Centre on Monday afternoon as he passed through town to canvas for votes for the upcoming Presidential election.

Holding a framed photograph of his father, which also contained Private Paddy Kelly's Defence Forces unit markings, David Kelly said: "Martin McGuinness hello, I'd like to ask you a question. This is my father - Private Patrick Kelly who was killed in Derrada Wood, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim, in 1983 by the Provisional IRA.

"No-one has ever been prosecuted for his murder and the murder of Garda Gary Sheehan, two brave servants of this state. I want justice for my father, but I believe you know the names of the killers of my father and I want you to tell me who they are," Mr Kelly said, during an confrontation which was witnessed by a posse of reporters.

Mr McGuinness said he didn't know who the killers were and Mr Kelly responded that he was on the army council of the IRA at the time, which Mr McGuinness denied.

"I want justice for my father. I am his son. He was loyal to this Irish Republic and I want to get justice for him," said David Kelly.

Mr McGuinness said he understood and sympathised with Mr Kelly, but Mr Kelly said he didn't believe him and called the presidential hopeful a liar, which Mr McGuinness disputed.

"I want justice for my father. I want you to get your comrades who committed this crime to hand themselves into the gardai," said Mr Kelly.

The Sinn Féin candidate said: "I don't know who was responsible for the killing of your father. I absolutely sympathise with you. I have been a part of a very important peace process in the north for the last 20 years, which has brought conflict and violence and death to an end and I'm going to continue with that work because that's the work of peace. This is in the past. You're heartbroken on account of it and my sympathy is 100% with you."

Mr Kelly said to Mr McGuinness that before there could be any reconciliation in this country there had to be truth. The presidential hopeful said that was why Sinn Féin had proposed an international independent commission on truth.

"I want truth today. Murder is murder. I want justice for my father," said Mr Kelly as Mr McGuinness and his supporters moved away to canvas shoppers and workers in the shopping centre.

Speaking after he confronted the presidential candidate, Mr Kelly said he was not satisfied with the response from Mr McGuinness.

"It was totally inappropriate. I asked him to reveal the identity of those killers, those killers directly should go to the guards, do the decent thing, go to the authorities and hand themselves in and then we might have some justice, some truth and then maybe we can think about moving on in this country," he told the Westmeath Independent.

Mr Kelly added: "I asked him a direct question. I wanted him to reveal the killers of my father and Garda Gary Sheehan. If they want a true peace process the truth has to come out before there can be reconciliation."

Asked how he felt when he heard Mr McGuinness was running for president, Mr Kelly said: "Well, it's an obscenity because his organisation killed members of the security forces, my dad in the Irish Army. It's an obscenity. I feel sympathy for all people who were killed by the Provisional IRA over the years - Detective Garda Gerry McCabe in Limerick and all the other people."

Mr Kelly, who confronted Mr McGuinness on behalf of his family, added: "I'd like to remember my father and my mother, whose life was ruined and she passed away early. There was a direct link between my father's death and hers. It destroyed her life, ruined her life."

Private Paddy Kelly was the only member of the Irish Defence Forces to be killed while on duty in Ireland. He was killed on December 16, 1983, while he was involved in the rescue of businessman Don Tidey who was being held by the Provisional IRA in Derrada Wood in Leitrim. David was his eldest son and was just nine when his father was killed.

Private Kelly had three other sons - Michael, Patrick and Andrew, who was just eleven weeks old at the time of his father's death and is now a serving member of the Irish Defence Forces. Private Kelly's widow, Catherine, passed away last year.

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