Gerry Kelly

For the Northern Irish broadcaster, see Gerry Kelly (broadcaster). For the English footballer, see Gerry Kelly (footballer). For the golfer, see Jerry Kelly.
Gerry Kelly
Junior Minister at the Office of the
First Minister and deputy First Minister
In office
8 May 2007  16 May 2011
First Minister Ian Paisley
Peter Robinson
Preceded by Denis Haughey
Succeeded by Martina Anderson
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Belfast North
Assumed office
25 June 1998
Preceded by Office created
Personal details
Born (1953-04-05) 5 April 1953
Belfast, Northern Ireland,
Nationality Irish
Political party Sinn Féin
Spouse(s) Margaret Kelly
Residence Belfast, Northern Ireland
Alma mater St Peter's Secondary School, Britton's Parade, Belfast
Portfolio Policing
Religion Roman Catholic
Other organizations Provisional Irish Republican Army volunteer (formerly)
Website North Belfast - Gerry Kelly

Gerard "Gerry" Kelly (Irish: Gearóid Ó Ceallaigh, born 5 April 1953) is an Irish republican politician and former Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer who played a leading role in the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998.[1] He is currently a member of Sinn Féin's Ard Chomhairle (National Executive) and a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA) for North Belfast.[2][3][4]

Early life

Kelly was born in the lower Falls Road, Belfast in 1953, one of 11 siblings. He was educated at St Finian's Primary School, Falls Road area, and later at St Peter's Secondary School in Britton's Parade, Belfast. Kelly became involved in physical force republicanism in 1972, aged 18.

Old Bailey attack

The IRA planted four car bombs in London on 8 March 1973. Two of the car bombs were defused: a fertilizer bomb in a car outside the Post Office in Broadway and the BBC's armed forces radio studio in Dean Stanley Street. However, the other two exploded, one near the Old Bailey and the other at Ministry of Agriculture off Whitehall. As a result of the explosions one person was killed and almost 200 people were injured.[5]

Kelly, then aged 19, and eight others, including Hugh Feeney and sisters Marian and Dolours Price, were found guilty of various charges relating to the bombings on 14 November 1973. Kelly was convicted of causing explosions and conspiracy to cause explosions, and received two life sentences plus twenty years.[6]

Imprisonment and hunger strike

Upon imprisonment in England, Kelly, and the other prisoners went on hunger strike demanding political prisoner status and to be transferred to prisons in Northern Ireland. After 60 days on hunger strike, during which he subsequently alleged he was force-fed by prison officers, Kelly was transferred to HMP Maze prison in Northern Ireland in April 1975.[7]

While imprisoned in the Maze, Kelly again went on protest and made a number of escape attempts in 1977, 1982 and 1983. On 25 September 1983, Kelly was involved in the Maze Prison escape, the largest break-out of prisoners in Europe since World War II and in British prison history.[8][9] Kelly, along with 37 other republican prisoners, armed with six hand-guns, hijacked a prison meals lorry and smashed their way out of the Maze past 40 prison wardens and 28 alarm systems. During the escape Kelly shot and injured a prison warden in the head as the officer attempted to foil the escape.[10]

After the mass break-out Kelly was on the run for three years and again became involved in an active service unit in Europe. Whilst on the run Kelly claimed he was aided in his escape by "all kinds of people", including prominent Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael supporters in the Republic of Ireland.[11]

On 16 January 1986, Kelly was recaptured in the Netherlands along with Brendan "Bik" McFarlane at their flat in Amsterdam. At the time of their arrest, cash in several currencies, maps and fake passports and the keys to a storage container holding 14 rifles, 100,000 rounds of ammunition and nitrobenzene were recovered by the Dutch police.[12][13]

On 4 December 1986, the pair were extradited from the Netherlands to the UK by RAF helicopter and returned to the Maze prison.[14] On 2 June 1989 Kelly was released in line with the extradition conditions agreed with the Dutch authorities.[15]

Political career

Upon leaving prison Kelly became actively involved in politics and was seen by unionists as a communication link between the IRA and Sinn Féin. Kelly and fellow Sinn Féin member Martin McGuinness both engaged in protracted secret negotiations with representatives of the British Government from 1990 until 1993.[16] Kelly also published a collection of poetry entitled Words from a Cell in March 1989.

Kelly later became a leading member of Sinn Féin and played a role in the Northern Ireland peace process negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998. In promoting the peace process he had talks with Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.[17]

On 27 June 1998 Kelly was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly. He was Deputy Chair of the Social Development Committee in the 1998-2003 Assembly, and is currently Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Policing and Justice, and a political member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.[17][18][19][20]

In 2013, Kelly came under fire from MLAs in Northern Ireland for holding on to the front of a Police Service of Northern Ireland vehicle as it drove away with him during a protest in his constituency.[21]

Kelly was a Sinn Féin representative during the talks chaired by Richard Haass in 2013 on contentious issues in Northern Ireland.[22]


  1. British, Irish accord experts hold lecture on N. Ireland experience
  2. Gerry Kelly - Biography from NI Assembly
  4. "The peace warriors". The Guardian. London, UK. 29 June 1999.
  5. "From the archives: Ten held after Provo bombs blast London", 1973 archives, The Guardian, 9 March 1973, retrieved 30 May 2013
  6. Searcs Web Guide: Gerry Kelly profile,; accessed 15 January 2016.
  7. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, the Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary by Robert White (ISBN 978-0253347084), page 235
  8. O'Day, Alan (1997). Political Violence in Northern Ireland: Conflict and Conflict Resolution. Praeger Publishers. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-275-95414-7.
  9. Louisa Wright (10 October 1983). "The I.R.A.'s "Great Escape"". Retrieved 29 July 2007.
  10. Byrne, Nicola (21 September 2003). "Maze party with jelly and ice cream". The Observer. London, UK.
  11. Killers party at Maze escape night,; accessed 15 January 2016.
  12. "Passport in man's home bore the name of another man". Irish Examiner. 30 April 1998. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
  13. "Westminster accepts them, but we don't". Irish Independent. 3 February 2002. Retrieved 14 March 2007.
  14. "Dutch Extradite Two I.R.A. Fugitives". New York Times. 4 December 1986. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
  15. De Baróid, Ciarán (2000). Ballymurphy And The Irish War. Pluto Press. p. 337. ISBN 0-7453-1509-7.
  16. Setting The Record Straight - Sinn Féin booklet as PDF download
  17. 1 2 Gerry Kelly profile,; accessed 15 January 2016.
  18. "These are the future leaders of Ulster if the St Andrews Agreement is endorsed",; accessed 15 January 2016.
  19. Critics mock Kelly's actions in Ardoyne
  20. "The NI Policing Board". Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  21. "Tour of the North parade: Sinn Fein members criticised". BBC News. 23 June 2013.
  22. "Richard Haass talks continuing into night". BBC News. 31 December 2013.
Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Office Created
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Belfast North
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Denis Haughey
Junior Minister at the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister
Succeeded by
Martina Anderson
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