Tributes have been paid to a well-known Northern Ireland solicitor after he passed away from injuries sustained in a cycling accident at the weekend.
atrick Kelly was one of the founders of McConnell, Kelly and Co Solicitors 32 years ago before he retired in May.
The father-of-two, who was aged in his early 60s, was cycling in Wicklow on Sunday when he sustained a serious head injury after falling off his bicycle. It is understood the incident occurred near Ashford during the Wicklow 200 Sportif event.
It is understood he was transferred to a specialist brain injury unit but, despite their best efforts, Mr Kelly never regained consciousness.
On Thursday, members of the legal profession packed into Court Number 10 at the Laganside complex in Belfast to pay tribute.
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.”
President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland Brigid Napier said she was “deeply shocked and saddened” to learn of Mr Kelly’s death.
“I knew him for many years, and he was highly respected amongst his colleagues and clients alike for his professionalism,” she said.
“His passing is tragic and will be felt by many who knew him as a gentleman within the legal profession.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Doreen, their sons Rory and Conor and his former colleagues at McConnell Kelly.”
Mr Kelly and Fergus McConnell founded their legal firm 32 years ago and both men retired together just six weeks ago.
The firm has four offices in Bangor and east Belfast.
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.
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.”
Pat is survived by his wife Doreen and two sons Rory and Conor.