Manus Kelly and Donal Barrett in the Donegal Rally
Tributes continue to pour in from across the county and country following the tragic death of rally driver Manus Kelly.
News of his sudden death has ignited an outpouring of grief among local, political, business and sporting circles.
All of those who have sent tributes paid their heartfelt respects to Mr Kelly's family and extended family.
In a statement, the leader of the Fianna Fáil party, Micheál Martin, led the tributes. He expressed his deep sadness at the tragic death of the rally driving champion who had been elected to Donegal County Council as a Fianna Fáil councillor just last month.
“Manus had just embarked on a promising career in local politics having recently been elected to Donegal County Council representing the Fianna Fáil party.
“It was obvious throughout his recent election campaign that he was passionate and entirely committed to serving the people of the Letterkenny electoral area which he cherished.”
Deputy Martin recognised that Manus had made a huge contribution to his community as a self-employed businessman who employed 60 people in the town.
“He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and all those closest to him. My thoughts this evening also remain with Manus’s co-driver and loyal colleague, Donal Barrett. Manus's death is an immeasurable loss to us all.”
Donegal County Council (DCC) also paid tribute to the late county councillor.
In a statement the Cathaoirleach Nicholas Crossan and Chief Executive Seamus Neely conveyed sympathy on behalf of the elected members, management and staff.
They paid tribute to all those associated with the late Mr Kelly adding that Donegal had lost one of their greatest sporting ambassadors: “Our thoughts and prayers are also with the rally fraternity in Donegal and beyond on the loss of one of their greatest ambassadors. Donegal has lost a wonderful sportsman and ambassador.”
A long serving member of the Donegal Motor Club, Damien Crawford said that the scale of the tragedy has yet to resonate with many.
Mr Crawford who was working as club steward for the event, told Highland Radio that people are emotionally wrought as a result of the tragedy.
He said: “The scale of this is very, very hard to register even at the moment...people are completely numbed by it all. At the drivers’ briefing on Friday, I made reference to the fact that Manus was probably the best ambassador the event and the county have had. He had immense success in the event.”
Mr Crawford said that it was difficult to articulate the scale of loss associated with this tragedy: “It’s very hard to put into words just what a scale of loss this is.”
Every challenge as an opportunity
Manus Kelly was the managing director of TFS Ireland Ltd which is situated in Ballyraine, Letterkenny. A post on their social media site describes the natural ability that Manus had to connect with people, his willingness to help those who needed help and how he was a genuinely good-hearted person.
It read: “Manus had a special gift of connecting with people and took every challenge as an opportunity. He was a genuinely good man always wanting to help people.”
The Sports Minister, Shane Ross, also paid tribute to the late Mr Kelly adding that he had a promising role in politics.
He said: “I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Manus Kelly who was tragically killed in the Donegal rally competition.
“Manus was a great ambassador for Irish motor sport and had a promising role in local politics. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”
Sinn Féin Donegal Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has described news of the tragic death of Cllr Manus Kelly as a “devastating loss for his family, friends, and all who knew him.”
He said: “The people of Donegal took great pride in his many successes as a rally driver, not least winning the Donegal International Rally for the last three years.
“The dedication and professionalism he displayed as a top rally driver was extended to his business that employs dozens of local people.”
Many of those who paid tribute extended their thoughts and prayers to Donall Barrett who was taken to LUH after being injured in the tragic collision.