The late Private Paddy Kelly.

'He put his life on the line for the nation'

A prominent Senator has slammed army regulations which has seen many people in the Defence Forces who lost their lives, including the late Pte Paddy Kelly, denied recognition with bravery medals.

Private Paddy Kelly was shot dead on December 16, 1983, during the rescue of kidnapped supermarket executive Don Tidey at Derrada Woods near Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, alongside young Garda Gary Sheehan.

“Paddy Kelly from Athlone was shot by the IRA during the Don Tidey kidnapping. The garda who was beside him got the gold Scott medal. Paddy Kelly, or Patrick Kelly, got nothing,” Senator Gerard Craughwell fumed in the Seanad in recent days. “Dick O'Hanlon, Martin Fahy and two others, saved John O'Connor while they were under fire and they got nothing. They did not even get a 'Thank you'”

While Pte Kelly was awarded the Military Star medal posthumously in 2012, it is not a medal recognising bravery, the Senator explained on Thursday last.

“The Military Star is a medal given to people who die in service. He didn't just die in service, he died in service of the nation. He put his life on the line for the nation. He is entitled to the highest honour we can give him,” and in his view this would be the military medal for gallantry as he believes the distinguished service medal has been devalued in recent years.

He referred to this in his Seanad contribution, saying that every retiring chief of staff gets a distinguished service medal by the Department of Defence for what many would see as simply doing their job.

Senator's Craughwell's comments came as controversy raged on RTE's Liveline programme last week following the publication of a story in the Irish Sun about the denial of a bravery medal to a young Mayo man whose family said “gave up his life” to save 14 soldiers. Private Billy Kedian, who was just 21, was serving his second tour in Lebanon when he died on May 31 in 1999.

He was recommended for a Bonn Mileata Calmachta, a Military Medal for Gallantry, the highest award for bravery. But Defence Force Regulation A9 states that a submission should be made within two years of the actual act — so his case was denied.

The Galway-based Senator, who served in the British Army, told the Upper House this week that one of first things he learned as a recruit was the battle honours of the regiment and the “great men of the regiment who died in service”, something which doesn't happen in Ireland.

“Lieutenant Colonel Ernán Naughton, who is retired, said yesterday that every Chief of Staff who retires gets a distinguished service medal. For what? For doing his job. Should every private soldier who served for 40 years, who was never charged and who did his duty every day, get a distinguished service medal? They have debased the medal to the point of its being worthless,” he complained.

Senator Craughwell called on the Cathaoirleach and the leader of the Seanad to write to the Minister for Defence, Micheál Martin, to ask him to force the Chief of Staff to order a “complete review of the acts of valour” to see “who we have missed out and that includes the people of Jadotville”.

Speaking to the Westmeath Independent on Thursday last following his contribution in the Seanad, Senator Craughwell added: “There should be no timeframe for the recognition of gallantry of any sort”.

He called on the Minister to get the Department of Defence to change the timeframe regulation immediately, and then for the Defence Forces to conduct a review of all army cases.