Monday 20 January 2020

Rally champion dad-of-5 killed in horror smash as he chased title

Rally driver and FF councillor Manus Kelly in his car
Rally driver and FF councillor Manus Kelly in his car

A champion driver has died in a horror crash while taking part in the Donegal International Rally.

Popular father-of-five Manus Kelly, an experienced racer who was defending his title at the rally, was involved in the devastating crash at Fanad Head loop on the third and final day of the event yesterday.

His co-driver Donall Barrett was injured in the accident, which did not involve any other vehicles, and was taken to Letterkenny General Hospital.

Local businessman Mr Kelly, who had won the rally for the past three years, was also a newly-elected Donegal county councillor.

The crash happened at around 12.30pm, with the car ending up in a field in an area around 3km from Fanad Lighthouse. An investigation is under way.


Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin led the tributes to Mr Kelly yesterday.

In a statement, Mr Martin extended his condolences to Mr Kelly's wife Bernie, his five children, parents Jacqueline and Donal, and his eight siblings.

"As three-time consecutive and reigning champion of the Donegal International Rally, Manus's racing talent was limitless," he said.

"He was widely respected and loved by all of the rally community here in Ireland.

"Manus had just embarked on a promising career in local politics having recently been elected to Donegal County Council representing the Fianna Fail party.

"Manus made a huge contribution to his community. As a businessman, he employed 60 people in Letterkenny. He was an active fundraiser and advocate for the Letterkenny University Hospital.

"He had great commitment to the GAA and managed his local club, Glenswilly, to Junior B success in 2016."

Mr Kelly (41) lived in Glenswilly, Co Donegal, with his wife and children, the youngest of whom is just two. He was founder and managing director of Tailored Facility Solutions.

Donegal Motor Club and Motorsport Ireland also extended sympathies to the family and friends of Mr Kelly. They said that he was "immensely popular in the rally fraternity".

Fianna Fail TD for Donegal Charlie McConalogue said Mr Kelly's "first priority was always his family".

"Manus was great at everything he did. He was committed to all aspects of life," he said.

"He was a very good-hearted person, charismatic and very popular. He'll be sorely missed."

Letterkenny Fianna Fail councillor Donal Coyle also paid tribute to Mr Kelly last night. He told the Herald: "I'm in deep shock. I got to really know Manus over the course of the local election, as he was a new candidate.

"I spent a lot of time with Manus over those weeks during and after the election. I was looking forward to working closely with him.

"It's an awful tragedy and the whole community is numb.

"Manus was considering his rally future, as he ran a very successful business and he'd just been elected to the council.

"He was a young man with a young wife and family. Manus was a lovely person, a good fella."

Education Minister Joe McHugh said Mr Kelly "was a top-class competitor and a great asset to the county, the rally, and motorsports in Ireland".

"I hope co-driver Donall Barrett makes a good and speedy recovery," he added.

He said that Mr Barrett has been a great support to the Donegal Dublin Business Association.

"The Donegal Rally is a real community and I've no doubt all the organisers and officials involved will come together in support at a time like this," said Mr McHugh.

The Donegal International Rally attracts upwards of 100,000 spectators to the county each year and is worth millions to the local economy.

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