Saturday 20 January 2018

Military Star for soldier who died freeing Provo kidnap victim Don Tidey

Eoghan MacConnell

BUSINESSMAN Don Tidey yesterday paid tribute to a fallen soldier who made the "supreme sacrifice" while assisting in his rescue from a gang of Provisional IRA kidnappers almost 30 years ago.

Private Patrick Kelly -- the first Irish soldier to die in active service on home soil since the Civil War -- was posthumously awarded the Military Star at a ceremony in Custume Barracks in Athlone yesterday.

The 35-year-old from Moate, Co Westmeath died alongside trainee Garda Gary Sheehan (23) when the IRA opened fire and threw a grenade at them in the Derrada Woods in Co Leitrim on December 16, 1983.

Mr Tidey, who attended the ceremony with his wife Barbara, said: "I am very honoured to be here."

He praised Pte Kelly's late wife Katherina, who died in 2010, and said he had no doubt that both parents would be proud of their four sons, David, Andrew, Patrick and Michael.

Mr Tidey described Pte Kelly's death as "a supreme sacrifice" and said, "you can't get higher then that and medals are medals but this is a wonderful recognition for a man who did his duty bravely".

No one has ever been convicted of the kidnapping.

On November 24, 1983, Mr Tidey, then chief executive of Quinnsworth and living in Rathfarnham, south Dublin, was kidnapped by an armed gang posing as gardai.

Positive

Mr Tidey, who is now in his 70s, managed to free himself during the firefight at Derrada Woods.

Pte Kelly's son David made headlines last year when he confronted Sinn Fein's presidential candidate, Martin McGuinness seeking the names of his father's killers.

"It looks like we will have to accept and try and draw a line under the fact that no one will be prosecuted," he said yesterday.

"There is nothing we can do about that so, we have to try and just move on and reflect on the positive things about my father's legacy."

David said he and other family members have been inspired by their father.

"We look to the positives. His good personality traits, his positive attitude, his can-do attitude and that inspires us to carry on in our lives.

"We are just so proud of him, we really are and I think his spirit is here with us today on this special occasion," he remarked.

Andrew Kelly, a corporal in the Military Police, 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?' She said 'your father was a soldier, he died saving a man's life, he was a hero'. Ultimately, straight away that is what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a soldier," he explained.

Andrew said they would have loved to have seen their mother collect their father's medal.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said: "There was great bravery shown by everyone involved, unfortunately there was a great tragedy with two deaths."

Describing the award as "very appropriate", he said: "In the context of the bravery shown I think it was an acknowledgement of the sacrifice made by Pte Kelly in the interest of the community and in saving the life of Mr Tidey."

Mr Shatter presented Corporal Andrew Kelly with the Military Star medal, while David received a framed citation at the ceremony in Kelly Square -- named after the fallen soldier -- at Custume Barracks.

Before working for Quinnsworth, Don Tidey served in the British Army as a captain. He believes his army training helped him during his captivity.

Mr Tidey, who has maintained contact with the Kelly family, retired over a decade ago. A private man of strong religious faith, it's understood he now lives with his wife in Dublin.

Irish Independent

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