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Order 'The Thimbleriggers' by James Kelly - The Dublin Arms Trials of 1970
Feature article: Daily Ireland [Belfast], Tuesday, August 23 2005

Derry civil rights campaign veterans urge Michael McDowell to clear Captain James Kelly’s name

Letter calls for apology

By Conor McMorrow

VETERANS of the North’s civil rights campaign have written an open letter to Justice Minister Michael McDowell asking him to apologise to the late Captain James Kelly’s family for the way the Irish state treated him.

Captain Kelly came to national prominence during the 1970 Arms Trial over the Southern state supplying arms for Catholics to defend themselves in the North of Ireland.

He was acquitted during the trial but his family have repeatedly called on the Irish government to apologise for having treated him “like some sort of pariah”.

Before his death in July 2003, Captain Kelly devoted much of his life to a campaign to clear his name following the charges that he had conspired to illegally import arms.

Although Captain Kelly was found not guilty of the charges along with his co-defendants Charles Haughey, John Kelly and Albert Luykx, he spent 33 years seeking justice. He always maintained that he should never have been on trial.

Now the October Fifth Association, a network of civil rights campaign veterans, have thrown their weight behind the campaign and this week sent an open letter to Mr McDowell calling for a state apology for Captain Kelly.

In the letter, Fionnbarra O’Dochartaigh, organiser of the Captain Kelly Justice Campaign, said:” Although Captain Kelly and his co-accused were acquitted, several matters, relating not only to Captain Kelly, have been left to fester, without official resolution, to an extent which we consider to be our nation’s shame.

“We are totally convinced that Captain Kelly was made a scapegoat.

“He and his family suffered greatly as a direct result of carrying out his official duties, sanctioned by the then Taoiseach and his Cabinet, regardless of later denials, and what can only be described as selfish cover-ups and an unjustified smear campaign.”

The detailed letter outlined a number of reasons why the Kelly family and the October Fifth veterans (the date refers to the famous civil rights march in 1968 which was batoned off the streets of Derry by the RUC) believe that Captain Kelly was innocent and why his family should be given an unequivocal state apology.

The controversy cast a dark shadow over Captain Kelly’s life and career and the lives of his family.

After Captain Kelly’s death in 2003, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said: “Captain 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.”

However, his family still believe that they deserve a full state apology, notwithstanding Mr Ahern’s favourable comments.

Mr. O’Doherty, in his letter to Mr. McDowell, added: “It is our hope that after considering this dossier that you too will come to the realisation that this is “an extraordinary story of injustice,” to quote Tony Benn, a former [British] Labour MP and Minister.

“The historian and commentator, Tim Pat Coogan, has previously referred to Captain Kelly as “the Irish Dreyfus” and said that his name should be cleared.”

For more information, including an international on-line petition to clear Captain Kelly’s name, log on to www.captainkelly.org.

The Full Text of the Letter appeared on Page 22, and is now on the website.
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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