Northern Ireland

GAA backs families of Sean Brown and Patsy Kelly

UDR-RIR suspected of involvement in sectarian murders

Patsy Kelly was murdered in July 1974 
Patsy Kelly was murdered in July 1974 

The GAA in Ulster has passed a motion supporting the families of murdered GAA members Sean Brown and Patsy Kelly along with “all other families impacted by the legacy act”.

The motion tabled by Tyrone GAA at last weekend’s Ulster convention came on the same day as a coroner heard that a serving member of the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) is a suspect in the murder of Co Derry clubman Sean Brown.

Murdered GAA official Sean Brown
Murdered GAA official Sean Brown

On Saturday, a letter from the Brown family was also read out by Ulster GAA president Ciaran McLaughlin during Derry’s clash with Armagh in the Dr McKenna Cup.

A father-of-six, Mr Brown was attacked and beaten by an LVF gang as he locked the gates at Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC in May 1997.

After he was placed in the boot of his own car, the club chairman was taken to a country lane outside Randalstown, Co Antrim, where he was shot six times.

Collusion is suspected, and several of those thought to be involved are believed to be state agents.

Mr Brown’s inquest has been held up due to PSNI delays in producing disclosure material.

All inquests must be at their findings stage by May 1 or they will be halted under the British government’s controversial Legacy Act.

Mr Kelly¸ who was a member of Omagh District Council, is thought to have been killed as he returned home from work at a bar in Trillick, Co Tyrone, in July 1974.

His remains were weighed down before being dumped in Lough Eyes in Co Fermanagh and were recovered three weeks later when they floated to the surface.

A Police Ombudsman’s report published last year found there was collusive behaviour on the part of some RUC officers and that there were a series of “significant” investigative failings in the case.

The Kelly family, and many in the local community, suspect the involvement of UDR members in the murder.

In July 1992 the UDR went out of existence when it was merged with the Royal Irish Rangers to form the Royal Irish Regiment.

A new inquest into Mr Kelly’s death was ordered by the Attorney General last July after a previous call for one was rejected.

In November last year the Kelly family were told that coroners could not be allocated to outstanding legacy inquests due to a lack of resources.

At the time Mr Kelly’s elderly widow Teresa said she was “shattered” by the development.

During the GAA Ulster convention in Monaghan on Friday members from Tyrone tabled a motion to “support the campaign of the Brown Family from Bellaghy, The Kelly Family from Trillick and all other families impacted by the legacy act, to have access to the justice system which could facilitate the emergence of the truth”.

“This access should not be time limited,” it added.

Patsy Kelly’s widow Teresa and son Patsy Kelly junior speaking outside the Police Ombudsman Office in Belfast about the report into the murder of nationalist councillor Patsy Kelly in Co Tyrone in 1974 (Niall Carson/PA)
Patsy Kelly’s widow Teresa and her son Patsy Kelly junior. Patsy Kelly’s widow Teresa and her son Patsy Kelly junior.

Mr Kelly’s son, also Patsy Kelly, said his family appreciates the support from the GAA.

“We are extremely thankful of the support displayed by the GAA in Tyrone and across Ulster regarding the denial/stalling of inquests for our own family, Sean Brown’s family and indeed all families impacted by the inhumane Legacy Act,” he said. “In 1974, after Patsy Kelly’s abduction it was Trillick St. Macartan’s Donnelly Park where daily search parties would gather and organise before scouring the locality for signs of his remains.

“Trillick GFC subsequently commissioned ‘The Patsy Kelly Memorial Cup’ and it is a source of great pride for our entire family circle that this continues to be part of the club’s annual youth tournaments.”

In a report published ahead of the convention, Ulster GAA Chief Executive Officer Brian McAvoy branded Mr Brown’s killing “sectarian” and said the association must use all its influence to ensure that his inquest is completed.

“The recent statement on the Legacy Act by Brian McAvoy of the Ulster Council was hugely significant in its message and harked back to when county boards in Tyrone and Fermanagh called on their members to join in the search for Patsy,” he said.

“The GAA community stood by our family in 1974, down through all of the decades of campaigning for truth and now their support and influence is needed more than ever in opposing the UK government’s Legacy Act.”