The son of an Irish Defence Forces soldier who was murdered by the IRA has issued a poignant warning to dissident republicans about the “road they’re on”.
David Kelly, whose father Private Patrick Kelly was shot dead along with 23-year-old trainee Garda Gary Sheehan near the border between Co Leitrim and Co Fermanagh in 1983, was speaking following a remembrance service organised by the victims’ group South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF).
Mr Kelly said the service, SEFF’s seventh annual remembrance event and held this year in Pettigo in Co Donegal on Sunday under the theme ‘terrorism knows no borders’, was a great comfort.
“The key thing was that no matter where we came from – different countries, and denomination didn’t come into at all because it was irrelevant – if terrorism came to that family’s door that is what mattered,” he said.
Private Kelly and trainee Garda Sheehan had been searching Derrada Wood looking for Protestant businessman Don Tidey, who was being held hostage in a hideout by members of an IRA unit who’d kidnapped him more than three weeks previously.
David Kelly was just nine-years-old at the time of his father’s murder, and said there was “emptiness” in the family after the killing.
“I have to say there was massive goodwill from people, of course, but the feeling was just one of emptiness.”
The event in Co Donegal involved people from outside Northern Ireland, including Mr Kelly, speaking about the impact of terrorism.
Mr Kelly told the News Letter: “For years these people have been suffering in silence and they were given the chance to have their voice heard.
“It was overwhelming for me to get that recognition of my father’s service and sacrifice, after all these years of silence.”
Regarding the people responsible for his father’s murder, Mr Kelly said there is a warning for those involved with dissident republican terrorism today.
“They thought their act of vioklence was to bring down Northern Ireland – look what it all boiled down to,” he said.
“One of their members, with an AK47, machine-gunned my father to death and my father was wearing the uniform of the Irish army.
“Actually, there is a message today for these dissident republicans who are encouraging young people to join their cause. That’s what it leads to. That’s the road you’re on.”
The South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) held its seventh annual service of remembrance and thanksgiving in Templecarne Church of Ireland Parish, in Pettigo, Co Donegal on Sunday. The service followed the theme ‘terrorism knows no borders’.
SEFF director Kenny Donaldson said: “SEFF were privileged to host 20 victims/survivors from Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland this weekend, many of whom had never before visited Northern Ireland. The message was that when innocent victims unify across religious and ethnic divides that there is immense power in their collective voice.”