Belfast Telegraph

IRA victim's son 'shocked' Martin McGuinness up for top peace prize

By David Young

The son of an Irish soldier murdered by the IRA has hit out at the organisers of the Tipperary Peace Prize after Martin McGuinness was controversially shortlisted for the award.

David Kelly is the son of Private Patrick Kelly (35), who died alongside Garda Gary Sheehan (23) in 1983.

They were taking part in a rescue operation to free businessman Don Tidey, who had been kidnapped and held hostage by the IRA.

Both men died from injuries caused by a grenade thrown by the kidnappers.

"I was shocked when I heard Martin McGuinness had been nominated for a peace prize," Mr Kelly told the Belfast Telegraph last night.

"His name should never have been put forward.

"They must only have been thinking about his time in the Assembly, not about the years he spent in the IRA."

Mr Kelly (42) is convinced the former Deputy First Minister, who was an IRA commander in Londonderry, has information about crimes he has not shared with the authorities.

No one has ever been brought to trial for the murders of Private Kelly and Garda Sheehan.

Mr Kelly said that Mr McGuinness had never revealed any information that could have led to his father's killers being brought to justice.

He also called on the Sinn Fein politician, who recently stepped down from frontline politics because of poor health, to give details to the Garda about the 1983 murders.

He described the organisers of the Tipperary Peace Prize event as "high-handed", claiming they refused to meet a group of survivors and victims of IRA violence, including him.

"They are not interested in dialogue," Mr Kelly said. "They won't meet us and hear what we have to say."

He also revealed that there was a Tipperary link to the IRA murders in the Tidey kidnapping. Gary Sheehan, the young Garda trainee who died with Private Kelly, was still in training at Templemore Barracks, in Co Tipperary, when he died.

"Garda Sheehan's elderly mother is still heartbroken," Mr Kelly said.

"It was only three months before his death that she and her husband proudly watched Gary enter Templemore to begin what they thought was his career."

Patrick Kelly was the first Irish soldier to die on active service on home soil since the Irish Civil War. In 2012, he was posthumously awarded the Military Star.

During the 2011 Irish presidential election, Mr Kelly confronted Mr McGuinness, was the Sinn Fein candidate.

The former IRA commander denied having any knowledge of the killers and denied that he was a member of the IRA Army Council at the time.

But Mr Kelly called him a liar and said that before there could be any reconciliation, there had to be truth.

He told him: "I want truth today. Murder is murder. I want justice for my father."

Mr Kelly later described Mr McGuinness's presidential bid as an "obscenity because his organisation killed members of the security forces".

"I feel sympathy for all of the people who were killed by the Provisional IRA over the years - Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in Limerick and all the other people," he said.

Mr McGuinness later responded, saying that "as a republican leader I have never and would never stand over attacks on the Garda Siochana or the Defence Forces".

However, he refused to condemn the murders of Private Kelly and Garda Sheehan.

The appearance of the former IRA leader on the Tipperary Peace Prize shortlist has prompted a wave of criticism from the families of people murdered by the terror group.

Among them is Ann Travers, whose 22-year-old sister Mary was shot dead by the IRA in south Belfast in 1984 as she walked home from Mass with her parents, and Jane Hunter, whose husband, Lance Corporal Stephen Burrows, was one of five soldiers killed along with Patsy Gillespie in an IRA proxy bomb in October 1990.

Ms Hunter said she could not understand how anyone who held the positions McGuinness did in the IRA and Sinn Fein could be considered a peacemaker.

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