Gerry Kelly (1953- ) is an Irish Republican, a Sinn Fein politician and a former Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer.
Gerard Kelly was born in Belfast, the son of a labourer with 11 children. He was educated in a Catholic primary school on the Falls Road. After completing his secondary education Kelly obtained work as a clerk with the local electricity board. As a teenager Kelly became caught up in the sectarian unrest of the late 1960s. He supported the civil rights movement, joined the Republican youth league Fianna Éireann and participated in urban rioting.
In 1973, Kelly travelled to London, along with sisters Marian and Dolours Price, to initiate the Provisional IRA’s Mainland Campaign. They planted four car bombs in London, two of which exploded, killing one person. Kelly was arrested in November, convicted and sentenced to two life sentences. He went on a hunger strike after being denied Special Category Status (SCS); the strike failed after Kelly was force-fed by prison guards. Kelly was subsequently transferred to HM Prison Maze.
Kelly is perhaps best known for orchestrating a mass escape from Maze in September 1983. Using smuggled handguns, Kelly and 37 Republican prisoners hijacked a prison truck and burst out of the Maze, shooting a prison guard in the process. Kelly returned to active service with the IRA. A British intelligence report described him as “an extremely dangerous, resourceful and dedicated terrorist”. Kelly remained at large until January 1986 when he was arrested by Dutch police in the Netherlands. He was extradited to Belfast and returned to the Maze until his release in mid-1989.
Kelly was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998, representing North Belfast; he still holds this seat today. He also served as a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Executive between 2007 and 2011. In 2015, it was revealed that in 1986 Kelly was given a secret royal pardon for his paramilitary offences. Maze, a motion picture about the 1983 prison breakout, is due for release in late 2017.
Title: “Gerry Kelly”
Authors: Jennifer Llewellyn, Steve Thompson
Publisher: Alpha History
Date published: February 15, 2018
Date accessed: May 28, 2023