Manus Kelly: Tributes paid to champion race driver and popular politician, 41, killed in crash at Donegal rally
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Manus Kelly: Tributes paid to champion race driver and popular politician, 41, killed in crash at Donegal rally

GLOWING TRIBUTES have been paid to a Fianna Fáil councillor who died while defending his motor racing title at the Donegal International Rally yesterday.

Manus Kelly, 41, was fatally injured when his Hyundai i20 crashed into a hedge on the Fanad Peninsula, Co. Donegal on day three of the event at around 12.30pm on Sunday.

The father-of-five, a prominent local businessman from Letterkenny who was a newly-elected member of Donegal County Council, had won the race meet for the last three years in a row.

His navigator Donal Barrett, 30s, was rushed to Letterkenny University Hospital with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening.

The rest of the rally was cancelled following the incident and an investigation is under way.

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Confirming Cllr Kelly's death, Motorsport Ireland and Donegal Motor Club described him as an "immensely popular" figure in the rally fraternity.

"He was elected to Donegal County Council in the recent elections and was a prominent businessman in Donegal," they said.

“Our thoughts are with his family and all affected at this time.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin offered his condolences to Cllr Kelly's wife and children, saying that he had "just embarked on a promising career in local politics".

In a statement, Mr Martin said: "As three-time consecutive and reigning champion of the Donegal International Rally, Manus's racing talent was limitless.

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

"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."

Donegal Sinn Féin senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn described the death of Cllr Jelly – who was founder of Tailored Facility Solutions – as a "devastating loss" to his family and the local community.

"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," Senator Mac Lochlainn said.

"The dedication and professionalism he displayed as a top rally driver was extended to his business that employs dozens of local people. And recently, he was elected as a County Councillor for the Letterkenny Electoral Area.

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“We also extend our thoughts and prayers to the man who was injured in the tragic collision today."

The Donegal International Rally is a three-day annual event that begins and concludes in Letterkenny every summer.

Founded in 1972, the race meet attracts up to 70,000 spectators and 200 competitors each year.