July 16th, 2003: Former Irish army captain, James J. Kelly,
born 1929, dies.
At his death-bed the family promise to continue his 33-year long
campaign for justice. Unexpectedly, within hours of his death An
Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern TD, tells journalists,” Captain Jim Kelly
acted on what he believed were the proper orders of his superiors. For
my part, I never found any reason to doubt his integrity”.
July-December 2003: The Hon. Secretary of the October Fifth
Association, a network of civil rights veterans and supporters, on the
basis of Ahern’s statement, commences research on the Arms Trials of
1970. Statements are placed on the Internet calling for a campaign. A
Boston-based son of Capt. Kelly discovers postings from Derry civil
rights office, and his mother, Sheila e-mails
to express her thanks and support. An Irish-American, Dr. Kevin Kelly,
no relation, offers to CR Vets the creation a campaign website, free of
charge. The offer is immediately accepted. After several weeks the first
few “pages” of
www.captainkelly.org appears, and are gradually added to. Christmas
period - The text for an on-line petition is drafted and approved by
Mrs. Kelly, family members and key supporters at home and abroad.
Internet bulletin boards, initially the
Irish Anti-Partition League’s forum,
solidarity, and thereafter publish regular updates.
January/February 2004: A local reporter, Darinagh Boyle
pens an article, “Derry activists demand
posthumous clearance for Captain Kelly”. This is the first public
recognition of a new campaign, and is posted unto the website – [View
Home Page, www.captainkelly.org
Derry News on Sunday, January 4th. The Derry News on Feb. 12th report: “Kelly’s
Widow to launch campaign in Derry”, The Irish News on Feb, 20th
report, “Taoisign asked to help clear Kelly’s
name”. Next day, the same paper reports public backing from 1970
co-accused, John Kelly, former chairman of the Belfast Citizens’ Defence
Committees; “MLA backs Kelly Campaign”.
March 2004: Radio Foyle and Highland Radio broadcast
interviews. Irish News on the 16th reports website creation and “Fight
to ‘clear’ arms trial captain”. Next day, St. Patrick’s Day, at
Noon, Mrs. Kelly phones civil rights veterans to officially launch the
www.captainkelly.org Over 150 publications at home and abroad are
notified by e-mail, in addition to postings to several Irish-American
groups, bulletin boards and scores of supporters worldwide. Veteran
Derry journalist, author and former ‘Journal’ editor, Frank Curran,
calls on the Irish government to set up a tribunal of inquiry.
April 2004: Capt. Kelly’s last book, “Thimbleriggers”
(1999) is promoted on the website. A special website
Civil Rights/Bloody Sunday photographic section
is created. 4,000 campaign promotion cards printed bearing photo of
Capt. Kelly, Civil Rights (b/w ‘Oakleaf’) logo, as well as website and
contact details for much-needed donations. [View –
Support Campaign section on the Home Page].
May 2004: The widow of Capt. Jim Kelly is presented with
the Celtic Cross Award, in recognition of her late husband’s efforts to
assist beleaguered nationalist communities in 1969, and other life-time
achievements. The ceremony took place in Boston, organised by Fr. Robert
‘Bob’ Doherty, at the request of a co-founder of the civil rights
association (NICRA-1967) who is the Awards’ Irish-based representative.
2,000 A3 size illustrated paper petitions are printed to compliment the
on-line version, and to cater for supporters who do not have access to a
PC or the Internet. This was launched on the 29th at an unveiling of a
memorial stone plaque in honour of Co. Cavan born, Capt. Jim Kelly, in
the Catskills, Upstate New York. Other notable Irishmen and women, from
each of the 32 counties will likewise be honoured at the Michael J.
Quill Cultural & Sports Centre in East Durham. Members of the Kelly
family attended both ceremonies. A report, entitled, “Irish
America Remembers Captain Kelly’, written by the US-based columnist
Patrick Hurley, appeared in the ‘Irish Emigrant’ on June 18th and on
July 7th the Gaelic newspaper, Lá, carried “An
masla deiridh/The Final Insult”. These, and subsequent press reports
and interviews, which place a spotlight on the arms trial, and reveal
new evidence from that era, can be viewed on the Home Page of
July 2004: Mrs. Kelly, a son [James Peter] and two
daughters [Sheila & Jackie] travel to Derry to meet former officials of
the Derry and Belfast Citizens’ Defence Committees, the immediate and
extended family of another Arms Trial co-accused, the late Neil Blaney
TD, and civil rights veterans to highlight the campaign. A press
conference was also held at the newly-built City Hotel. Commemorative
plaques of the visit, illustrated by a photo of Capt. Kelly in
dress-uniform, and the civil rights logo, were presented to Mrs. Kelly
and two of her daughters, John Kelly, former MLA, and Niall Blaney TD.
The plaque designed for Mrs.Sheila Kelly was presented by Mrs. Mary
Ellen O’Doherty [97 –April 2005]. She is the last surviving widow of the
decorated veterans of the Derry Brigade, Irish Volunteers. Mr.Paddy
‘Bogside’ Doherty, a leading figure in the 1969 Derry Citizens’ Defence
Committee presented one of these to one of Capt. Kelly’s sons, James
Peter, on behalf of civil rights veterans in the city, and others from
across the north, including human rights activist priest, Fr. Des
Wilson, who had made journeyed to Derry to express their solidarity.
January-April 2005: The website continues to be updated.
A 38-minute video, “Evidence
of the Colonel” can now be viewed, and another, “Secret Orders” of a
similar time-frame, is planned for Easter week. A
campaign pin/badge has been struck in Australia and a
car bumper sticker has been produced in the
United States. These are highlighted on the website.
A book on the Arms Trial and the plight of Capt. Jim Kelly is currently
being researched, with the full co-operation of his family and the
Two leading politicians, one Fianna Fail, one SDLP, will make
representations to An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, TD., urging him to meet
Captain Kelly’s widow, and other family members. A dossier of recently
unearthed evidence, and other documentary sources, relating to the
scapegoating of Capt. Kelly in particular, is being prepared for the
consideration of the Taoiseach on a date, which has yet to be mutually