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Minister Coveney expresses condolences on the death of Father Michael Kelly

Simon Coveney, T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, has expressed his condolences to the family of Father Michael Kelly, an outstanding advocate for people living with HIV, following his death today in Zambia.


Minister Coveney said:


“I was very sorry to hear of Father Michael’s death, in his beloved Zambia where he spent more than 50 years.  A missionary and educator, Father Michael’s leadership and advocacy on HIV and AIDS, and also education and human rights, was inspirational.  He leaves a legacy of achievement, driving policy changes not just in Zambia but on the international stage.  It was fitting that his outstanding work was marked during his lifetime, including awards for distinguished service from President Higgins in 2012, and President Lungu of Zambia in 2018.  Father Michael’s energy, dedication, and passion will live on in the memories of those he inspired.


Among those inspired by Father Michael were those generations of Irish officials who have worked in the Embassy of Ireland in Zambia since it opened in 1980, and who today also feel his loss.  In recognition of Father Michael’s work, the Irish Government established an annual lecture series, the Professor Michael Kelly Lecture on HIV and AIDS. This initiative will ensure that Father Michael Kelly’s name and deeds will not be forgotten, and that future generations of policymakers will benefit from his legacy.


I would like to extend my sincere condolences to Father Michael’s family and friends.  Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.


Press Office
15 January 2021

Notes for Editors

Fr. Michael Kelly SJ was born in Tullamore in 1929.  A graduate of UCD, he lived in Zambia for over 50 years.  There he worked as a secondary school teacher, becoming headmaster, before moving into academia, including a time as Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zambia.  His advocacy for people living with HIV and AIDS was particularly influential in Zambia, and on approaches taken to that virus by the multilateral system.  Fr. Michael received the President’s Award for the Irish Abroad in 2012 and last year his achievements were marked by An Post, when he featured on a stamp as part of their Irish Abroad series.  For many years the Department of Foreign Affairs has hosted an Annual Fr. Michael Kelly lecture to mark World AIDs Day.


Further information is available at: https://fathermichaelkellyzambia.org/?page_id=89