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Order 'The Thimbleriggers' by James Kelly - The Dublin Arms Trials of 1970
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Posted 18-Feb-2009:

Mourners salute wife of arms trial captain
Tuesday February 17 2009

THE funeral Mass of the wife of a leading figure in the arms trial that rocked the nation took place yesterday -- with the chief celebrant criticising the couple's "victimisation" by the government over a period of 30 years.

Sheila Kelly was...
read more here...

captjjkelly.jpg (276982 bytes)
SCAPEGOAT: Irish Army Intelligence Officer, Capt. James Kelly, Born 1929, Died on July 16th 2003.
Excerpts from
"The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000."

Posted 25-Oct-2006:

The Irish American Unity Conference adopts a resolution calling for "the Taoiseach to completely clear the name of Captain Kelly..." [Click here]

Posted 14-Aug-2006:

Oration delivered on July 16th 2006 by Harry Boland at the graveside of Capt. James J. Kelly in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, on the Third Anniversary of his death.

"I was very surprised but greatly honoured when Sheila asked me if I would give a short talk at this, the 3rd Commemoration of Jim Kelly's death and, knowing how Sheila and family and friends have been so loyal and committed to clearing Jim's name for the honourable and loyal person he so definitely was, I said I would do my bit. When I asked what I should say, Sheila said "what is in your heart", so that is what I'll endeavour to do.

I had no knowledge of Jim's existence until he was catapulted into the national limelight with the scandalous and most unfair "Arms Trial". I knew some of the others accused – C.J. Haughey was in class with me in Joeys and in UCD and we studied for accountancy and set up business together. I first met Neil Blaney at the famous By-Election when he was first elected to replace his late father in Dail Eireann and I accompanied my father to Dun na nGall (Donegal) and said a few words at an "after Mass Meeting". Albert Luyux was a respected neighbour of mine in Sutton. John Kelly I got to know after the Trial, when my friend Gerry Jones was trying to get him started again, and when I was handling a small fund which Gerry Jones and Des McGreevy had set up to assist deserving Republican relatives. Distribution was made through John and the late Independent Republican M.P., Paddy Kennedy.

That left Jim Kelly whose whole performance in the Court I followed-what was reported in the newspapers. After one particular disgraceful episode by the then Minister for Defence, my brother, Kevin, who had been Minister for Defence when first elected to Dail Eireann was leaving the Court, which he had attended every day, the former Commander-in-Chief, General McEoin, turned to him and said, "wasn't that nauseating". When I read the detailed account Jim recorded, the whole dreadful plot which was clearly designed to shaft Haughey and Blaney – for different reasons I believe – it became clear to me and the career and good name of a mere lowly Captain was completely disregarded-with tampered evidence – in Colonel Hefferon's case, and as papers since made public, prove that not only politicians but also Civil Servants contributed to the disgraceful performance into which Jim Kelly was wrongly and carelessly drawn.

I was reared in the environment of that wonderful, if comparatively small group of patriotic people who tackled the "Greatest Empire" the world had ever known, who thought and think of themselves as the Master Race, and they almost succeeded in driving them from our small country. They were truly "Politicians by Accident" and even in the sad state of affairs that they inherited, I was always satisfied that their objectives and love for Ireland was sacrosanct.

Then to have to realise that some who succeeded this group could be so self-centred as to concoct a false charge – I found very hard to believe. Even when our Courts of Justice found those wrongly accused people "Not Guilty" we had the unedifying and disgraceful accusation by a Senior Politician that the jury had been "got at". Forcing one unidentified member of that Jury to break silence to deny categorically that any pressure has been put on the Jury-apart of course from the clear evidence produced to it in Court.

Having got to know Jim I never had any doubt regarding the complete honesty of what he said and did. Indeed I had the great pleasure last September to attend the commissioning of my grandson, Aonghus, in the Irish Navy in Haulbowline when I heard for the first time in detail the Oath sworn on these occasions and this confirmed my strongly held opinion that Jim's behaviour through all that awful episode was positively faithful to that same oath that he had sworn when he was commissioned.

I am pleased that even though it came after Jim's death, that our present Taoiseach publicly stated he was satisfied that Jim had always acted under orders. I feel the full Government apology was not given for political reasons but I sincerely hope that the official Government acknowledgement of this will be issued without further delay, particularly now, based on even further proof, that Sheila, her family and supporters have since unearthed.

Guím suaimhneas síoraí agus rath Dé ar anam dílis Jim."

Harry Boland

Posted 15-Jul-2006:

The following is an address delivered by Justin Kelly, the son of the late Capt. James J. Kelly, to the 2006 AOH National Convention, held in Boston, in July. Press reports indicate the event was attended by an estimated 1,400 delegates from across the United States.

Text sent to Civil Rights Veterans -

"I'd like to thank your National President, Mr. Ned McGinley for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today about the "Justice for Captain Kelly Campaign".

My father, Captain Kelly, was an Irish army officer who was charged with illegally importing arms to Ireland, in what came to be known as the arms trial in 1970. At the time, it was the longest running trial in the history of the Irish state and received massive attention due to the fact that among the defendants were two leading government ministers, Neil Blaney and future Taoiseach, Charles Haughey.

To understand the complexities of the case, it is necessary to view the historical context. In the late nineteen sixties, the Six Counties that comprise Northern Ireland, were on the verge of civil war. Spurred on by civil rights protests in the United States, the catholic minority in the north began marching for equality. The response from their Protestant neighbours was both swift and brutal and many were forced to flee their homes under threat of death. The partisan police force, were, at best, ineffective and volunteer Catholic Defense Associations were organized to defend nationalist areas.

As the situation deteriorated, the southern Irish government looked on nervously fearing that things could spill over the border. Jack Lynch, the Taoiseach, intimated that his government would not, in his own words, "stand idly by" while our northern brethren were under siege. It was around this time, that my father, a twenty year army intelligence veteran was sent north to assess the wants and needs of those in the frontline. He met with representatives of the Catholic Defense Association and the answer was clear. They wanted guns with which to protect themselves in the event of a doomsday situation.

He reported his findings to his superior officer, Col Michael Hefferon, who in turn reported to his commander, Minister for Defense, Jim Gibbons.

According to an army directive of the time, written by a Col Adams:

"At 16.30 hrs. on Friday, 6 Feb 1970 the Minister for Defense informed the chief of staff and the then Director of intelligence that the government at a cabinet meeting on that date had instructed the minister to order the chief of staff to prepare and train the army for incursions into Northern Ireland if and when such a cause became necessary, and to have respirators and arms and ammunition made ready in the event that it would be necessary for the minority to protect themselves. The minister explained that the Taoiseach and other ministers had met delegations from the North. At these meetings urgent demands were made for respirators, weapons and ammunition, the provision of which the government agreed as and when necessary"

In light of this directive, and under orders from his superiors my father was sent to the continent to negotiate a secret arms deal using funds that had been supplied by the government. The arms never arrived. In May, my father was arrested at our suburban home and charged with a conspiracy to illegally import arms. At first, he assumed there was a misunderstanding and went willingly with his captors. It was only when his belt and his shoelaces were removed and he was thrown in a cell that he began to realize that treachery was afoot. He demanded, and eventually received, an audience with both the Taoiseach and the Minister of Defense. The Taoiseach, as was his way, indicated that things were out of his hands. More insidiously, his commander, the Minister for Defense said something along the lines of "you're in the hot seat now, Jim".

At the ensuing trial, my father, despite the best efforts of the government was found not guilty. This was in no way thanks to the testimony of the Minister of Defense, Jim Gibbons, who undoubtedly committed perjury by denying all knowledge of the affair. In his testimony, the chief of intelligence, Col. Hefferon, made it clear that Gibbons was kept informed of all aspects of the operation. This was the key to the trial. If the Minister of Defense, Jim Gibbons, had ordered the importation, then no crime had been committed. However, Col. Hefferon's statement was altered to omit any reference to the Minister under the direction of then Minister for Justice, Desmond O'Malley. This fact only came to light 30 years later when the state papers became available to the public.

Why was my father conspired against by the Irish government. Although a number of theories abound, I really cannot definitively answer that question other than to say that due to an about face of government policy he became expendable. What I do know was that my father's reputation was left in tatters. A whispering campaign orchestrated by influential politicians indicated that the jury had somehow been got at and that the not guilty verdict was a perversion of justice. As a child our house was under constant surveillance by the gardai's special branch and I thought everyone's telephone was tapped. I saw nothing unusual in the fact that our car was shadowed by unmarked police cruisers on our weekly trips to the market for groceries. My family received anonymous death threats through the mail, one from a notorious Loyalist paramilitary group.

Of all the hardships suffered by my father, I believe the one that upset him most was the way in which his army career was taken away. He'd served honorably for twenty years; a career soldier who'd served three years in the middle east as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force and was held in the highest regard by all who served with him. That he was hung out to dry by the very people he'd sworn to serve was the ultimate insult.

We hear a lot of talk these days about protecting our troops. Whatever one feels about war in Iraq or elsewhere, everyone agrees that it is imperative that we support the troops who have given so much. I'm ashamed to say my government, the Irish government, abandoned a proud soldier.

My father fought for 30 years for the state apology that he deserved. He died penniless, in 2003, still waiting.

Thanks so much for your time. Go raibh maith agat agus slan libh."

Justin Kelly

View Campaign Press Coverage
Books on the Arms Crisis

Order 'The Thimbleriggers' by James Kelly - The Dublin Arms Trials of 1970
The Arms Conspiracy Trial
The Arms Conspiracy Trial: Ireland 1970

Military Aspects Of Ireland's Arms Crisis Of 1969

August 1969: Ireland's Only Appeal To The United Nations
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