Leading solicitor Pat Kelly was a gentleman of kindness and class who helped thousands of people at their most desperate and vulnerable, a special tribute heard today.
Mr Kelly, one of Northern Ireland’s most respected and accomplished criminal lawyers, passed away on Wednesday following a tragic cycling accident in Co Wicklow last weekend.
Members of the legal profession packed into Court Number 10 at the Laganside complex in Belfast for eulogies to the father-of-two.
Presiding District Judge Mark McGarrity said he had appeared in many of the most demanding and involved criminal cases ever prosecuted in the jurisdiction.
"Pat had an illustrious career and is acknowledged as being amongst the leading lawyers in the country,” Mr McGarrity said.
"For decades he exhibited the highest standards of professionalism and integrity as he served the community as a solicitor, and personally helped thousands of people when at their most desperate and vulnerable.
"He did all of this with an unrivalled ease and deftness because he was cool.
"Always in good humour, I struggle to think of a colleague who so conscientiously and consistently exhibited kindness, a calm temperament and class."
The solicitor, a founding partner in the McConnell Kelly law firm with offices in east Belfast and Bangor, Co Down, had only retired earlier this year.
In an emotional address, Barrister Richard McConkey told how Mr Kelly had been looking forward to spending time with the family he adored and indulging in his passion for cycling.
"Pat Kelly retired on March 31 without any fuss and in the typical humble way he conducted himself in everyday life,” he said.
"He was as happy as we have ever seen him in his retirement."
Mr McConkey described it as an honour to have been the solicitor’s friend and colleague for the past 15 years,
"It’s very rare to find somebody in this business that nobody has a bad word to say about, but I have never heard anybody say a bad word about Pat Kelly,” he added.
Condolences and sympathies were expressed to Mr Kelly’s wife Doreen and their sons Rory and Conor.
Solicitor Brendan Blaney recalled his legal colleague as a trusted friend who brightened up every day with his smile and “mischievous sense of humour”.
"Pat was a daily example of the finest attributes any solicitor should aim to display,” he said.
"He carried his more than 35 years of legal expertise and advocacy lightly, he was unfalteringly polite, courteous and good humoured, and we shall all miss him dearly."
"Jonathan Burke, a director in McConnell Kelly, stressed that Mr Kelly will be missed forever.
"We loved Pat and will always love Pat," he said.
“We are so thankful to have been his colleagues and had the opportunity to work alongside him and become lifelong friends.
Fergus McConnell, the lifelong friend who founded the law firm along with Mr Kelly, thanked everyone who has been in contact with the family.
“(The) kindness and support over the last few difficult days has provided a great deal of solace and comfort to them.”
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