Sunday 16 June 2019

'Clear my name' says dying Kelly

LIZ WALSH JAMES Kelly, the former Irish Army officer implicated in the 1970 Arms Trial, is taking the the State to court in a final attempt to vindicate his good name before his imminent death.

Captain Kelly, 73, has just days to live after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer and is currently in the Hospice in Harold's Cross in Dublin.

On Thursday, Mr Kelly's lawyers began High Court proceedings to force the State to admit he was wrongly accused of conspiracy to import arms to the North in what became the biggest political trial in the history of the State.

His legal team are seeking a declaration stating he should never have been prosecuted, as any arms importations "were known and approved by the then Minister for Justice" Jim Gibbons.

Cpt Kelly's wife Sheila has begged Justice Minister Michael McDowell to "take off his legal wig" and "act like an ordinary human being" before her husband's death.

James Kelly obtained two versions of a crucial witness statement, one of which was altered significantly before being used against him in court. The original statement from the former head of Military Intelligence, Colonel Michael Hefferon, seems to show that the then Justice Minister Jim Gibbons was fully aware of attempts to import arms destined for the North.

That original states: "Around this particular time Captain Kelly told him [Gibbons] that he might have to go to Germany again in connection with the arms and ammunition for the North."

However, the altered version reads "Captain Kelly told me [Hefferon]".

The crucial difference is that the first statement appears to back up the defendant's case that the Government "knew and approved" of the attempted gun running, while the second version puts the Army in the frame and protects Mr Gibbons.

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