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Seeing dad's killers freed was a price worth paying for peace, says Patrick Kielty


Reflection: Patrick Kielty with Mary McAleese

Reflection: Patrick Kielty with Mary McAleese

Patrick's dad Jack

Patrick's dad Jack


Reflection: Patrick Kielty with Mary McAleese

Patrick Kielty has said the early release from prison of loyalist paramilitaries who murdered his father over 30 years ago was "a price worth paying" for the possibility of peace.

The comedian and TV presenter made his comments to former Irish president Mary McAleese in her new RTE series, All Walks of Life, due to be broadcast tonight.

Kielty's father Jack (45) was shot dead by the UVF in 1988 in his Dundrum workplace.

Hooded gunmen burst into the offices of the building contractor and leading GAA official on January 25 and shot him several times at close range.

Kielty, who lives in London with his wife Cat Deeley and two young sons Milo and James, was only 16 when he buried his father.

Walking alongside Mrs McAleese in Tollymore Forest Park, Co Down, Kielty (49) recalls how he managed to find humour amid the Troubles despite his father's sectarian murder.

He said: "It was an assassination I suppose. I've never really used that word before but when someone just comes in and someone else is helpless, that's what it was."

Reflecting on how he heard the fateful news, he added: "I was in school and was sent to the headmaster's office and told: 'Sit down, we've bad news, he's been shot'. 'Is he dead?'. 'Yes' and then everything else goes into slow motion but (thinking) 'he can't really be dead'. It's also that thing of you normally go home and you see somebody dead but of course you don't because there's an autopsy and all of those things,

"There's that 24 hours of 'it's not really happening is it?'"

The IRA offered revenge for his father's murder which was rejected by the family. Asked if he had ever been recruited by paramilitaries to avenge his father, Kielty replied: "There was an approach to a relation in the graveyard on the morning he was buried but never directly (at me).

"When you've come through something like that the last thing you want is for anybody else to go through it, let alone you visit it upon anybody else. That was never even a thought," he added.

Three men were convicted over the killing and each sentenced to life imprisonment.

"A lot of people talk about how they want to have justice and I can really understand that if someone is caught and charged and goes to jail maybe they think that's going to help," Kielty said.

"It didn't really help us. I think one of the things which really helped was when you know your dad is an innocent man and the fact that my dad had Protestant work colleagues and friends.

"We had a lot of people not just from our side of the community calling at the house. That I think gives you a lot more comfort than weirdly the notion of someone being caught."

The three men were later freed from prison after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which Kielty voted for despite knowing it would lead to their release.

"That didn't bother me because we were on the absolute corner of moving this place on," he added. "When people say how do you feel about your father being killed, the one thing is I hope nobody has to go through it ever again.

"So if you've got something that gives this place a chance to turn the page for the first time in history and be part of a generation that actually doesn't continue that cycle of violence and if that means that the people who killed your dad are going to get out of jail, that's a price worth paying."

All Walks of Life airs on Friday night at 8.30pm on RTÉ One

Belfast Telegraph