This month marks the tenth anniversary of the death of IRA Volunteer Paddy Kelly on 11 June 1997 at the home of his long-term partner Angela and his family, in his native County Laois as a result of gross neglect and inhuman treatment at the hands of his British captors.
Having operated as an active service Volunteer in various parts of Ireland including South Armagh, Paddy got involved in the IRA’s England campaign and in 1992 was arrested in England in connection with a four-ton bomb found on a lorry. Paddy was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Prior to his arrest Paddy Kelly had suffered skin cancer and during his imprisonment the condition deteriorated. Despite the clear gravity of Paddy’s condition the British refused him access to adequate medical attention.
Finally under widespread international pressure Kelly was repatriated to Portlaoise jail in 1995. He was released from prison in late 1996 to die in his Portarlington home the following June.
Paddy Kelly was a highly respected republican. As Sinn Féin Councillor Brian Stanley put it:
“Paddy was a dedicated and determined republican – highly respected the length and breath of Ireland. He served time in some of the worst prison conditions in what were called Secure Units – units that both Paddy and his comrade Mick O’Brien described as ‘steel tanks’ with minimum lighting, poor sanitation and often no mattress as the POWs spent a lot of time on protest against the appalling conditions.
“Paddy’s medical condition lead to a huge campaign to get him proper medical attention – a campaign that was largely spearheaded by his partner Angela Rice.
“Republicans in Laois are immensely proud of Paddy – over the years the midlands has thrown up republicans of great calibre. This is the tenth anniversary of Paddy’s death and I’m calling on people from all over Ireland to join us on Sunday to commemorate Volunteer Paddy Kelly’s contribution to the struggle. A contingent of republicans from South Armagh will be present and the main speaker is Sean Murray. We will assemble at 2.30pm at the Railway Bridge, Killenard.”