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Uncrowned king of Irish journalism Jimmy Kelly dies aged 100

Jimmy Kelly, 1911-2011

Jimmy Kelly, 1911-2011  -  © Private

15 September 2011

Jimmy Kelly, the Belfast-based journalist, has died at home this week in Belfast. The NUJ has paid tribute to Jimmy Kelly, who celebrated his 100th birthday this year. He marked the occasion by writing his final column for the Irish News.

Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary, described Jimmy Kelly as the "uncrowned King of Irish journalism" and paid tribute to his outstanding coverage of Northern Ireland affairs through his illustrious career in journalism.

In his tribute, Séamus Dooley said:

"Jimmy Kelly was a towering figure on the Irish media landscape. He was an authoritative commentator on Northern Ireland with in-depth knowledge and experience of Irish politics and of the complex relationship between Ireland and the UK. He was unfailingly helpful to visiting journalists, some of whom could be taken aback by his intimate knowledge.
"Once a journalist asking Jimmy if he had ever covered Stormont. Jimmy replied with a twinkle in his eye – 'Yes, I covered the opening!'.
"Jimmy was a wonderful story teller and enjoyed nothing more than recalling political events and the political characters whom he met during his life. He was totally committed to the NUJ and to the principles of the union. He was proud of the NUJ and we were very proud of him."

Barry McCall, NUJ Vice President, extended sympathy to Mr Kelly's family.

"We in the NUJ regarded Jimmy as part of our family but his sad passing will be mourned especially by his family, who looked after him with such love and admiration."

To mark his final retirement, Jimmy Kelly and his grandson David attended a meeting of the Retired Journalists Committee of the NUJ in Liberty Hall, Dublin, on 24 May.

Jimmy Kelly accepted the invitation of secretary Jim Eadie to join the committee as a life member, remarking that it was a nice way to mark his 100th birthday. Louis McConnell, chair of the Retired Members Committee, raised the toast to the longest serving working journalist in the NUJ at an informal gathering in Liberty Hall.

A special message from President Mary McAleese was read by Tim McGuinness and Martin Fitpatrick, treasurer of the Irish executive council, and Séamus Dooley were among those present to join in the applause.

Jimmy Kelly wrote his last column for the Irish News in May, where a party was held in his honour hosted by family and friends in Belfast.

His extraordinary career, recalled at both events, began in 1928 when he joined the Irish News. He moved to Dublin to join the Irish Press in 1931 and went on to join the Irish Independent, where he worked for 50 years. As Northern Editor, he was an incisive commentator on "the Troubles" and he is equally remembered as a kind and helpful colleague and guide to journalists covering events of those years.

He officially retired in 1983 but continued to write his regular column every Saturday until last month.

Tags: , belfast, ireland, irish news, irish press, irish independent, politics, retired members