|Derry News on Sunday - January 4th 2004-
Reporter: Darinagh Boyle
Derry activists demand posthumous clearance for Captain Kelly
A Derry rights group will this month launch an international petition to
clear the name of the late Capt. James J. Kelly, smeared and ‘scape-goated’
in the arms crisis of the early 1970s.
The campaigners are calling on the Irish State to issue a posthumous apology
and have written to former Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey as well as
contemporaries of the Army captain and political leaders.
Capt. Kelly, an Irish Army intelligence officer at the time faced arms
import charges with Haughey and two other men.
He oversaw the procurement of an arms consignment from Germany, which
prompted the trial, but claimed he had Irish Government authorisation for
All of them were acquitted but Capt. Kelly had to leave the Army and said
the smear destroyed his life, according to the Derry-based October Fifth
They recently received a letter of thanks from Capt. Kelly’s widow, Sheila,
in which she stated that successive Dublin governments had refused to admit
her husband had been wrongly tried.
Capt. Kelly died in July 2003 after a 33-year old battle to clear his name
of any wrongful implication. Even on his deathbed, Mrs. Kelly said, he had
held on to the hope that he would receive an apology from the State.
The crisis rocked Ireland in the early 1970s and has been described as the
most dramatic legal event in the history of the State.
Spokesman for the lobby, author and historian, Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh,
recently appealed to Mr. Haughey, himself thought to be in ailing health, to
exonerate the late captain.
“I need not remind you that like yourself [Haughey] and others, he [Kelly]
was one of the main characters in the Irish Republic’s most historic trial”,
“You were all cleared in 1970/71 of allegedly providing material aid for
your fellow countrymen and women…we believe Capt. Kelly was acting on
official orders, based on a cabinet decision. Despite the verdict Capt.
Kelly believed his life was ruined, his career prospects were blocked, and
he was effectively unemployable.”
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said publicly, a day after Capt. Kelly's death,
that he had acted on what he believed were proper orders and personally had
no reason to doubt his integrity.
However, Mr. Ó Dochartaigh insists that although welcome – only a fully
official apology clearing Capt. Kelly’s name of any wrongdoing would bring
closure to the Kelly family.
He commented, “We believe that the Irish State should, as a matter of
urgency, take whatever steps are necessary to belatedly right the wrongs
inflicted on this soldier and servant of the State. Only then can it be said
that he was truly laid to rest.”