[Sinn Fein]

12 June 1997

Sinn Fein POW Department extends sympathy to family of Paddy Kelly

The Sinn Fein POW Department wishes to extend sympathy to the family of Republican Prisoner Paddy Kelly, who died today. Paddy's death is a tragedy for those who knew and loved him, but is even more so in the knowledge that his death was avoidable. The responsibility for Paddy's death lies firmly with the British government and particularly with the former Home Secretary, Michael Howard.

Paddy Kelly was a life-long Republican who showed courage and determination in everything he did. In June 1992 Paddy was diagnosed as suffering from skin cancer and received treatment in Ireland. Arrested in London in November 1992 Paddy was on remand in Belmarsh Prison when he suffered a recurrence of the disease. A number of medical reports have outlined that Paddy's cancer was treatable and with proper medical care could have been cured. This was not to be.

Paddy Kelly was refused the medical attention he required, he was told it was nothing and given pain-killers. Sentenced to twenty five years in a British Court Paddy was transferred to the Special Secure Unit at Whitemoor prison. These units are prisons within prisons and have been condemned as inhuman and degrading by many Human Rights bodies and observers. Along with his comrades Paddy, although ill, refused to allow himself be degraded. On protest in Whitemoor his condition continued to deteriorate and proper medical attention continued to be refused.

The repressive conditions and medical neglect of Irish Republican Prisoners was as a direct result of the policies pursued by Michael Howard, the then Home Secretary. The position of the prisoners was causing concern in many quarters with friends, supporters and Human Rights campaigners demanding that the situation be addressed. For almost two years after his cancer reappeared Paddy was not allowed attend a doctor qualified to treat him. It was only after a long campaign of lobbying, which in the end included the Dublin Government, that Michael Howard in August 1995 allowed Paddy to be transferred to Hospital for surgery. By that stage it was obvious that treatment would probably be too little too late.

Under armed guard in a local Hospital Paddy underwent surgery, and within days Michael Howard had him transferred back to Whitemoor. Paddy immediately returned to the protest. Medical aftercare was grudging and infrequent, and demands for Paddy's repatriation to Ireland were ignored.

Finally, in August 1995 when it was obvious to everyone that Paddy was terminally ill, Michael Howard allowed his transfer to Maghaberry Prison and then to Portlaoise Prison. He remained there for some months until the Dublin government gave him temporary release on medical grounds last year.

Paddy always spoke highly of those medical people who treated him in the various hospitals he attended. Paddy faced his illness as he faced life, with courage and good-will. Those who knew him and who came to know him will never forget him. He was a truly remarkable man.

To Paddy's partner Angela, and his family, and all those knew him as a friend and as a comrade we extend deepest sympathy. Paddy will be remembered with sadness, but also with pride.

Issued on behalf of the Sinn Fein POW dept.

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