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Tributes to Orange Order's Roy Kells who was respected businessman

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Roy Kells was Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland

Roy Kells was Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland

Roy Kells was Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland

Roy Kells, who died in hospital on Sunday, was a well-known businessman in Fermanagh .

He was also a leading figure in the Orange Order and was in his 80s.

Paying tribute, the DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "In his professional life Roy Kells made a huge contribution across Northern Ireland, but he remained most definitely a Lisnaskea man through and through.

"Through some extremely difficult times, Roy not only sustained the business, but oversaw its expansion within Co Fermanagh and across Northern Ireland, and it is now one of Northern Ireland's best-known family firms. Roy's faith, his family, and his dedication to serving the public have been the hallmarks of his life.

"It is notable that so many of the staff who work across the SD Kells stores have been there for many years. Their dedication to the company was only matched by Roy's dedication and care for them. My thoughts today are with the Kells family and all those who will miss Roy the most."

The SD Kells firm was founded by his parents who retired in 1964, and Roy Kells built up a drapery and furnishing business all over Northern Ireland.

The company has outlets including those in Enniskillen, Omagh, Lurgan, Lisnaskea, Banbridge, Larne, Belfast, Irvinestown, Newtownards and Portadown.

In 2013, Mr Kells received the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fermanagh Business Awards. He described the award as "an utter surprise and most unexpected", and attributed it to the staff and company directors.

Roy Kells built up the company in times of great challenges during the Troubles, and he served in the UDR, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1981 he narrowly escaped death when a gunman fired at him through a shop window.

The late Mr Kells made a significant contribution to the Orange Order, in many different ways. He was a member of Fawney Heroes LOL329 in Lisnaskea, and he held the position of County Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland from 1999-2003. He was Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland from 2003-2004.

He was recognised for his long commitment to the institution by receiving The Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Orange Community Awards in 2018. Grand Master Edward Stevenson, who presented the award, said that it was given in recognition of Mr Kells' "entrepreneurial prowess as well as his contribution to the provision of employment and the local community generally".

In the mid-90s many nationalists boycotted SD Kells stores at the height of the Drumcree parade dispute, and in 1998, the car used to transport the Omagh bomb was left outside one of the shops.

Paying tribute yesterday the Reverend Mervyn Gibson, Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, said: "Roy Kells was the leading Fermanagh Orangeman of his generation. He served his country and he was a leading Northern Ireland businessman.

"He always had time to talk and to offer advice. He will be a great loss to his family and to the Orange institution."

In another tribute an Orange spokesman said: "Roy Kells was highly influential and well-respected by senior officers and by brethren alike, and he can be rightly described as a lifelong Orangeman, having joined the institution as a young man."

Mr Kells is survived by his wife Shirley, adult children David, Ian, Andrew and Catherine, and the wider family.

The funeral takes place today at 2pm in Holy Trinity Parish Church, Lisnaskea.

Belfast Telegraph