Daily Ireland. Mon. July 3rd 2006. Report by Connla Young
Widow reissues appeal for help to clear captain's name
Campaign aims to restore reputation of 1970s arms trial defendant James
THE wife of an Irish army officer convicted of importing arms for the IRA in
1970 has reissued an appeal for members of the public to support the
campaign to clear his name.
Sheila Kelly, widow of the Irish army captain James J. Kelly, issued the
appeal just weeks ahead of the third anniversary of the former soldier's
Captain Kelly, an intelligence officer with the Irish army, was one of five
men who fell under the international spotlight during the 1970 arms trial.
The five were accused of trying to import arms into Ireland for use by the
newly formed Provisional IRA. The Irish soldier's co-accused included former
Irish taoiseach Charles Haughey, former Irish government minister Neil
Blaney, senior Belfast republican John Kelly and Belgian businessman Albert
All five men were eventually acquitted. However, Captain Kelly was later
forced to resign from the Irish army and was haunted by the allegations
until his death in July 2003.
Many observers from the period believe that Irish army officer was innocent
of any wrongdoing relating to the gun smuggling plot but was scapegoated for
Speaking after Captain Kelly's death, current taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he
believed the former soldier has only ever acted on orders.
Sheila Kelly continues to campaign to clear her husband's name.
"Since the death of my husband in 2003 a petition to clear his name has been
put on the Internet. Even though acquitted in the Dublin Arms Trials 1970
his reputation was smeared and the family suffered greatly as a
"In 2001 new revelations came to light and documents were found which proved
that Captain Kelly should not have gone forward for trial."
"A few politicians issued reports and tried to minimise the impact of these
documents, especially after an RTE Prime Time T.V programme showed that the
statement of Colonel Hefferon was altered by lawyers working for the
Attorney General of the time."
"Around 20% of the Colonel's pre-trial statement was deleted. I have now got
all these documents together and presented them to the Taoiseach's office."
Mrs. Kelly made a personal appeal for people to support her campaign.
"Some of the documents were deliberately withheld from the trial, which
meant that all evidence relevant to the accused was not available. The
person who played a large part in the setting up of the website for Captain
Kelly's case to be highlighted is Mr. Fionnbarra O'Dochartaigh, an author
and historian. He is a civil rights veteran who lives in Derry. Since '03 he
has done Trojan work and it is through him that I can make this appeal for
your solidarity. I wonder if you would use your contacts to get people to
sign the petition?"
"Paper petitions are also available on request. Currently on-line there are
fifty two pages with 25 names per page already but we need more to keep up
the pressure. It is now a civil rights issue and needs to be highlighted as
a matter of urgency", she said.
Fionnbarra O'Dochartaigh, a civil rights veteran and spokesman for the
October 5th association, echoed Mrs, Kelly's appeal.
"The Kelly family deserve justice and the full facts and so does the civil
rights generation. Captain Kelly was a fall guy, and the arms trial stitched
To sign the online petition go to
The campaign can be contacted at