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Statement from President Higgins on the death of Father Michael Kelly

Date: Fri 15th Jan, 2021 | 17:37

It is with deep sadness that I learned of the death of Fr. Michael Kelly in his adopted home of Zambia.

From Tullamore, and educated at UCD, Fr. Michael was perhaps best known for his advocacy on HIV and AIDS. He was also very active in the education sector in Zambia, having held senior faculty posts at the University of Zambia, and he was a strong and articulate proponent for human rights.

As an academic, writer and educator, Fr. Michael made an immense contribution to improved health outcomes for many people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through his work with Irish Aid and several multilateral organisations, he was an inspirational figure to health workers, aid workers, humanitarians and diplomats from Ireland, Zambia and beyond.

Fr. Michael was renowned, not only for his intellect, but for his extraordinary positivity and compassion. He epitomised the great work of Irish missionaries in the education and health spheres in so many parts of the world. His humanity shone through in his work and in his encounters with all who were fortunate enough to have met him.

I was honoured to present Fr. Michael with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad in 2012. In 2018 he received the Order of Distinguished Service Award from President Lungu of Zambia, in recognition of his contributions to the promotion of education, social justice and HIV/AIDS. His image featured last year on a stamp by An Post as part of their series celebrating the achievements of the Irish abroad.

It is so fitting that his memory will live on in the Father Michael Kelly HIV and AIDS Lecture, which is held annually to coincide with World AIDS Day on 1st December. This event will serve as a reminder of the outstanding work and rich legacy of Fr. Michael Kelly. I offer my condolences to his family and many friends. Ireland and Zambia mourn the loss of a true hero.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.