Ceremony honours local soldier on 40th anniversary of his killing

By David Flynn / Westmeath Independent

Colleagues of the late Athlone soldier Private Paddy Kelly gathered together last Friday in Custume Barracks, on the 40th anniversary of his killing, which occurred in Derrada Woods, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim, during the rescue of kidnapped supermarket boss, Don Tidey.

The two groups, Athlone Organisation of Ex-Service Personnel (ONE) and Post 9 of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) marched along with current serving Athlone military members in honour of the fallen soldier.

Captain Alan Rigney welcomed the gathering to Custume Barracks last Friday to remember Paddy Kelly. “Service to the flag and the state is an honour bestowed on those who choose to wear the uniform of the Defence Forces,” said Capt. Rigney. “The potential sacrifice of such service is not always obvious, but the soldier understands what that loyalty, honour and commitment may demand of him or her.”

He told the story of December 16, 1983, when he said a soldier of the 6th Infantry battalion, Custume Barracks, Athlone reported for duty unaware that the forthcoming alteration would result in that ultimate sacrifice.

“Pte Patrick Kelly gave the ultimate sacrifice in service for the state 40 years ago, by participating in an Aid to the Civil Powers operation at Derrada Woods, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim,” said Capt. Rigney. “Pte Patrick Kelly is fondly remembered by all retired and serving personnel of the 6th Infantry Battalion of Custume Barracks.”

Fr Paul Murphy, Defence Forces Chaplain, also spoke to the gathering, which also rememberred recruit Garda Gary Sheehan, who was also killed in Derrada Woods.

A ceremony of remembrance for Pte Kelly then took place at the barrack monument, which is for deceased members of the Defence Forces, which included a military ceremonial parade involving past and present serving members. It included music from the Band 2 Brigade.

Wreaths were laid at the monument by Lieutenant Colonel Mark Lennon, OC of the 6th Infantry Battalion, Michael Kinihan, Nat. President of ONE, Jack McKervey, Post 9 IUNVA, James Cleary, Military Police Association of Ireland, Western Branch and David Kelly, son of Pte Kelly.

A minute silence was then observed followed by the last post and Reveille.

The ex-soldiers then proceeded to rename the Athlone branch of ONE in memory of Private Paddy Kelly.

Paul Cooley of ONE told the Custume Barracks gathering. “Athlone Branch ONE wish to honour the memory of Pte Kelly by renaming their branch the Paddy Kelly Athlone branch and laying up their old branch flag and blessing their newly commissioned branch flag.”

A mass in memory of Pte Kelly followed in the barracks, celebrated by Fr Murphy.

Speaking to the Westmeath Independent, David Kelly, son of Pte Kelly said he was very honoured to be at the commemoration to mark the 40th anniversary, and to see the tribute paid to his father by his comrades.

“It’s very special to be among those serving and retired men at home and overseas,” he said. “I’m very emotional because I’m surrounded by people who have served this country so proudly over decades and my father was a part of that great story of the service of the Defence Forces to this country.”

David Kelly said it was very special to lay a wreath for his father, which he found very moving.

“Then with the Last Post, it brought everything into focus,” said the son of Pte. Kelly. “You are talking about the ultimate supreme sacrifice and I’m also thinking of Sean Rooney who died last year and those other men who died overseas, I always think of them and Garda Gary Sheehan and his garda colleagues.”

He said it was a marvellous tribute for Athlone ONE to rename their branch in honour of his father.

Article online here: https://www.westmeathindependent.ie/2023/12/22/ceremony-honours-local-soldier-on-40th-anniversary-of-his-killing/

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