Tuesday 22 October 2019

'I don’t think he realised how he touched people's hearts' - funeral of Manus Kelly in Donegal

Hundreds turn out as the popular rally champion is laid to rest

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Resounding applause sounded as the “legendary achievements” of rally driver and councillor Manus ‘Mandy’ Kelly (41) were recalled at his funeral.

Two laurel wreaths had been placed on the windshield of his beloved racing car which bore the legend ‘Mandy’ on the grille and which was parked proudly nearby.

The  funeral cortège arrived at the church led by two Garda motorbikes and the Subaru in which Mr Kelly won the Donegal International Rally three times in a row.

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The remains of Manus Kelly are carried under a finishing ramp at St Columba’s Church in Glenswilly in Donegal. Pic Steve Humphreys 27th June 2019

It was driven by Declan Boyle with Mr Kelly’s son, Charlie, in the passenger seat.

Hundreds of mourners stood on the sun drenched grounds outside the tiny St Columba’s church in Glenswilly, Co Donegal.

Three large screens had been erected and a drone flew overhead, capturing footage of the immense turnout.

Mourners heard that Manus had been deeply loved and appreciated by young people because he was “a big kid himself”.

The newly elected county councillor, a father of five whose youngest child with wife Bernie is just two, was fatally injured in a crash during the Donegal International Rally last Sunday.

The Taoiseach was represented at the funeral today by his ADC, Commandant Caroline Burke.

Micheál Martin, Fianna Fáil leader was present, along with Education minister Joe McHugh.

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Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin at the funeral of Manus Kelly at St Columba’s Church in Glenswilly, Donegal. Pic Steve Humphreys 27th June 2019

The world of motor rallying also turned out, with many competitors from the rally there to show their respect.

An extremely popular competitor on the Irish rallying scene, Manus lived in Glenswilly close to Gartan, where a stage of the rally was run on Saturday and was regarded as his home stage.

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The funeral of Manus Kelly at St Columba’s Church in Glenswilly, Donegal. Pic Steve Humphreys 27th June 2019

Manus was elected just last month to Donegal County Council where he won a seat for the Fianna Fáil party.

Mourners heard he had proudly worn his council tie for the past month.

It was amongst the gifts brought up to the altar to remember his life.

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Gifts left at the altar for the funeral of Manus Kelly at St Columba’s Church in Glenswilly, Donegal. Pic Steve Humphreys 27th June 2019

They included a family photo, the Jim Kennedy memorial trophy, his racing helmet, a Glenswilly GAA Jersey and a Donegal flag.

A guard of honour was formed by members of Donegal council at the funeral as the cortège arrived at the church.

Father Paddy Dunne said he had been struck by how car engines had been turned off in Letterkenny town and the community fallen silent to welcome Manus home.

“His death has been a dreadful shock to all of us,” he said.

Manus was someone who had never sat still for a minute, said Fr Dunne.

“He did a lot for a boy of 41, he lived some life. He didn’t sit a minute,” he said.

"I don’t think he realised how he touched people’s hearts."

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Mourners at the funeral of Manus Kelly at St Columba’s Church in Glenswilly, Donegal. Pic Steve Humphreys 27th June 2019

He quipped that if Manus had seen the numbers who turned up at his house for the wake he would have said: “there’s some votes there, boy.”

Many people had remarked on his friendship and his “big happy smiley head,” he said.

“When he went in somewhere he went in smiling - but he didn’t take it with him. He left that smile in people’s hearts,” he said.

The father-of-five was a highly experienced rally driver and won the event on three previous occasions but died after his Hyundai i20 hit a bump on the Fanad Head loop stage and crashed into a hedge.

His co-driver Donall Barrett was injured and was treated at Letterkenny General Hospital.

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