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'Ireland has lost an outstanding diplomat': Tributes paid to ambassador Jim Kelly after sudden death

Jim Kelly had served as Ireland’s Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations since 2020.

Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Jim Kelly
Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Jim Kelly

THE PRESIDENT AND Minister for Foreign Affairs have led tributes to Irish representative to the United Nations Jim Kelly after he passed away suddenly.

Jim Kelly had served as Ireland’s Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations since 2020, and previously as Ireland’s ambassador to Canada. 

President Michael D Higgins offered condolences to the ambassador’s wife Anne and his daughters Orla and Ciara.

“It is with great sorrow that I learned of the sudden death of Ireland’s Ambassador, UN Deputy Permanent Representative Jim Kelly,” Higgins said in a statement.

He described the ambassador as a “hugely popular figure across both the UN and with his colleagues at the Department of Foreign Affairs”.

“He served with distinction in several missions, as Ambassador to Canada, at Ireland’s Permanent Representation to the EU, at Ireland’s Embassy in Copenhagen, and in variety of roles in Dublin,” Higgins said.

Ambassador Kelly will be remembered by his colleagues and a wide circle of friends at home and abroad as a man of great kindness and integrity, epitomising the finest values of public service, through his dedicated work at the UN in New York.

“Our thoughts are also, at this time, with Ambassador Byrne Nason, and with Jim’s work colleagues at Ireland’s Permanent Mission in New York,” he said.

“We are thinking of you all at this extremely difficult time of loss of a colleague. Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam dílis.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that Ireland has lost “an outanding diplomat, a great public servant and a kind and generous human being”.

“Little of what Ireland has achieved in the Security Council would have been possible without Jim’s wise counsel, extensive network and encyclopaedic knowledge of the UN,” Coveney said in a statement.

“Whether maintaining open humanitarian crossings from Turkey into Syria that provide life-saving aid to 3 million people, championing the role of women in international peace and security, or acting as Security Council Facilitator on the Iran nuclear deal, Jim has been a vital leader.”

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The minister said that Kelly was central to Ireland’s response at the United Nations to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Jim was a hugely popular figure across the Department of Foreign Affairs, a generous and inspirational leader, and mentor to many younger diplomats,” he said.

Alongside his calm and understated demeanour, he had a great sense of humour and was a man of great kindness and integrity.

“I know that Ambassador Byrne Nason, our team in New York and his many friends across the Department and wider public service are deeply shocked by the news.

“I would like to extend my deepest condolences to his wife, Anne, daughters Orla and Ciara, and wider family at this terribly sad time”.

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Lauren Boland

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