'He was widely respected and loved' - Tributes paid to father of five Manus Kelly who died in Donegal Rally crash
Three-time champion and father of five, Manus Kelly, has been named as the driver killed at the Donegal International Rally today.
Kelly, an experienced racer who was defending his title, was involved in a crash around 12.30pm.
Well-known Kelly has won the Donegal Rally for the past three years in a WRC Impreza. This year he changed to a Hyundai i20 R5 in his bid for four-in-a-row in front of 70,000 spectators.
Before the start of today's race, Kelly had posted a picture alongside co driver Donal Barrett with a Donegal flag draped over their car wishing the senior football team the best of luck before their Ulster Final game against Cavan.
Kelly, a Fianna Fáil councillor, was the founder and managing director of Tailored Facility Solutions (TFS), a bespoke provider of facility management, recruitment and logistics solutions to clients throughout the northwest. Based in Letterkenny, his company employs 60 people.
He was involved in politics for 15 years and decided to put his name forward for the local elections in Letterkenny last month. He was one of three Fianna Fáil candidates elected in the district.
In his pitch to voters, Mr Kelly said he was proud to come from a farming background and to have been "reared in a family and community that respect's hard work, integrity and community spirit".
Paying tribute tonight Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD described Mr Kelly as a person with a racing talent that was “limitless”.
“He was widely respected and loved by all of the rally community here in Ireland," Mr Martin said.
“Manus had just embarked on a promising career in local politics having recently been elected to Donegal County Council representing the Fianna Fáil party.
“It was obvious throughout his recent election campaign that he was passionate and entirely committed to serving the people of the Letterkenny electoral area which he cherished.”
The party leader said his colleague had made “huge contribution to his community”.
“He was an active fundraiser and advocate for the Letterkenny University Hospital. He had great commitment to the GAA and managed his local club, Glenswilly to Junior B success in 2016.
“He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and all those closest to him.”
Mr Martin said his though were also with his co-driver and loyal colleague, Donal Barrett.
“Manus's death is an immeasurable loss to us all.”
Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal Charlie McConalogue said his “first priority was always his family”.
“Manus was great at everything he did. He was committed to all aspects of life.
“He set up a business around 10 years ago and it did very well. He did voluntary work and fundraising for the GAA.”
The TD added: “He was a very good hearted person, charismatic and very popular. He’ll be sorely missed.”
After finishing school he spent 12 years driving cancer patients from Donegal to St Luke's Hospital in Dublin for treatment.
"It was an honour to share this difficult journey with so many people and I got to witness first-hand the qualities of faith, hope, dignity and courage in the most trying of circumstance," he wrote on his election website.
Mr Kelly was passionate about sport, believing his recent success in sport and business were the result of "hard work, discipline, focus, resilience and surrounding myself with a team of highly skilled and positive people"
"I believe that my family upbringing, the community in which I was reared and the people I have met, are the primary reasons I stand before you seeking to be elected onto Donegal County Council to represent you, the people of our local area and affect change on your behalf," he wrote.
Mr Kelly, and his co-driver Donall Barrett, were honoured with a civic reception in recognition of their achievements in winning the Donegal International Rally in 2016 and 2017 together with the National Rally Championship in 2015. They continued the winning streak in Donegal last year and were looking to take four titles back-to-back this weekend.
In 2016 they won what has been described as most dramatic Donegal International Rally in history, claiming victory with just three yards and 0.5 seconds to spare.
It was noted that they used their positions in the sport to promote safety and respect on the roads.
The Donegal International Rally is a three day event that attracts upwards of 100,000 towards spectators to the county each year.
In a statement, Motorsport Ireland said: "It is with regret that Motorsport Ireland and Donegal Motor Club announce that a fatality has occurred during the final day of the 2019 Donegal International Rally on Sunday 23rd June.
"The Donegal Motor Club are liaising with the family of the competitor involved.
"The relevant authorities have begun a full investigation into the incident and will be assisted by Motorsport Ireland and Donegal Motor Club.
"Motorsport Ireland and its affiliated clubs are recognised internationally for operating to the highest standards of motorsport safety for competitors and spectators in line with the best practice of the FIA.
"The entire motorsport community extends its fullest sympathy to the family of the bereaved."
Meanwhile, Education Minister Joe McHugh said Mr Kelly “was a top class competitor and a great asset to the county, the rally and motorsports in Ireland”.
“I hope co-driver Donall Barrett makes a good and speedy recovery. Donal has been a great support Donegal Dublin Business Association.
“The Donegal rally is a real community and I’ve no doubt all the organisers and officials involved will come together in support at a time like this,” he said.
The rally, which started on Friday, was in its third and final day.
Gardaí confirmed to Independent.ie that they are at the scene in Donegal.
They described the incident as a "serious collision".
The three-day international event attracts the sport's big names and up to 70,000 spectators every year.