Don Tidey, the 1983 kidnap victim, has paid tribute to Private Patrick Kelly, a man who made the “supreme sacrifice” while assisting in Tidey’s rescue from the Provisional IRA.
Pte Kelly was the first Irish soldier to die on active service on home soil since the Civil War, and was posthumously awarded the Military Star at a recent ceremony in Custume Barracks, Athlone, County Westmeath.
A former resident of Moate, County Westmeath and a native of Ballinamuck, Pte Kelly (35) died alongside trainee garda Gary Sheehan (23) when the IRA opened fire and threw a grenade at them in the Derrada Woods near Ballinamore, County Leitrim, on December 16, 1983.
Mr Tidey, who attended the ceremony with his wife, Barbara, said: “I am very honoured to be here. I was very honoured to be asked by the Minister for Justice.”
Mr Tidey described Pte Kelly’s death as “a supreme sacrifice” and said: “You can’t get higher than that, and medals are medals, but this is a wonderful recognition for a man who did his duty bravely.”
Pte Kelly’s son David made headlines last year when he confronted Sinn Féin’s presidential candidate Martin McGuinness, seeking the names of those who had killed his father.
Andrew Kelly, a corporal in the Military Police serving in Custume Barracks, was inspired to become a soldier on hearing of his father’s bravery.
“At a very young age I asked my mother, who was my father and what did he do?” said Cpl Kelly. “She said your father was a soldier, he died saving a man’s life, he was a hero. Straightaway I wanted to be a soldier.”
Describing the award as “very appropriate”, Minister Shatter presented Cpl Kelly with the Military Star medal while David Kelly received a framed citation at the ceremony in Kelly Square, which is named after his father. No one has ever been convicted in connection with the deaths of Pte Kelly and Garda Sheehan. After training in the Curragh, County Kildare, Pte Kelly spent his career with the 6th Infantry Battalion in Athlone.