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Valiant ... moment a hero's son took on IRA godfather

FACE to face: 'My soldier dad was killed by IRA and he knows who did it'

IT WAS the moment IRA godfather Martin McGuinness finally came face to face with the truth.

The encounter was so powerful that even RTE, which many say is so soft on Sinn Fein, was forced to lead its news bulletins with footage.

And David Kelly used the words "liar" to describe McGuinness when he denied any knowledge of the incident in which the IRA man's unit gunned down David's dad.

David, son of Private Paddy Kelly, confronted the Sinn Fein politician during his canvass in Athlone -- and demanded that he name his father's killers.

David was just nine years old in 1983 when his father died in hail of bullets during a bloody battle in Co Leitrim.

The 35-year-old -- the first soldier killed in active service in the Republic since the Civil War -- was murdered alongside 23-year-old Garda Gary Sheehan as they were searching for kidnapped supermarket boss Don Tidey.

The dead soldier's son yesterday stood squarely in front of the former IRA boss and asked him who killed his father.

"Martin McGuinness, hello -- I'd like to ask you a question. My father, Private Patrick Kelly, was killed in Derrada wood, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, in 1983 by the Provisional IRA.

"No one has ever been prosecuted for his murder, and that of Garda Gary Sheehan, two brave servants of this State.

"I want justice for my father. I believe that you know the names of the killers of my father. I want you to tell me who they are."

McGuinness today tried to play down the encounter. "I think its very important that we are sympathetic to people like Private Kelly's son David Kelly and the family because they are obviously still hurting," Mr McGuinness said.

"And I have many friends that are hurting so I know what it's like when people hurt," he added.

During the encounter, Mr McGuinness alleged to Mr Kelly he did not know who killed his father. However, Mr Kelly dismissed this.

Private Kelly and Garda Sheehan were gunned down during a shoot-out with a gang of IRA kidnappers who were holding Don Tidey captive in a wooded area in Ballinamore.

Belfast man Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane was tried for falsely imprisoning Mr Tidey but his trial later collapsed.

Speaking after his encounter with Mr McGuinness, Mr Kelly vowed to wage a campaign against the Sinn Fein man until he reveals his father's killers.

"His words were hollow. He could have the role of Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces and he won't say who killed a member of that same army," said Mr Kelly.

The families of murder victims Jean McConville and Frank Hegarty have also demanded answers from Mr McGuinness.