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Patrick Kielty: ‘The people who killed my dad got out – that was a price worth paying for peace’

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Patrick Kielty with his wife Cat Deeley. The comedian talks to Mary McAleese on RTÉ’s All Walks of Life. Photo: Eric Charbonneau

Patrick Kielty with his wife Cat Deeley. The comedian talks to Mary McAleese on RTÉ’s All Walks of Life. Photo: Eric Charbonneau

Patrick Kielty with his wife Cat Deeley. The comedian talks to Mary McAleese on RTÉ’s All Walks of Life. Photo: Eric Charbonneau

COMEDIAN Patrick Kielty has movingly spoken about how he still thinks about his murdered father every day.

In the new series of All Walks of Life, the TV presenter tells former president Mary McAleese that he can now smile when he thinks about his father, Jack Kielty, who was assassinated by loyalist paramilitaries after he refused to pay protection money in 1988.

In the show, he also reveals how he swept his famous wife Cat Deeley off her feet by taking a red-eye flight to America to surprise her for her birthday.

The Down star, who was on the county’s minor Gaelic football team, revealed he had recently moved back to London from Los Angeles with his wife and their two young sons.

“It’s important to get them back here to know where we’re from and to know the story of our family,” he said. “The two of them have the Down (GAA) jerseys.”

During a walk with McAleese along the Shimla River in Tollymore Forest Park in Co Down, he recalled the shooting of his businessman father in his offices by loyalist paramilitaries when he was 15. “It was an assassination, I suppose. I’ve never really used that word before. But when someone just comes in and someone else is helpless that is what it was,” he said.

“I was in school, I was sent for to the headmaster’s office, ‘sit down, we’ve bad news. He’s been shot.

‘Is he dead?

‘Yes’. And everything then goes into that sort of slow motion. But he can’t really be dead.”

Republican paramilitaries did contact his family in the aftermath of his 45-year-old father’s funeral.

“There was an approach to a relation in a graveyard the morning he was buried but never directly.

“But when you’ve come through something like that, the last thing you want is for anybody else to go through it, let alone, you visit it upon anybody else. That was never even a thought.”

Although the men who killed his father got life sentences, he said it didn’t really help his family.

“I think one of the things which really helped was when you know your dad is an innocent man.

“The fact that my dad had Protestant work colleagues, Protestant friends. We had a lot of people not just from our side of the community calling at the house.

“That, I think, gives you a lot more comfort than weirdly the notion of someone being caught.”

Kielty has made a career out of cutting-edge comedy but still never considers it to be work. “There’s something in comedy, which is hero where zero. There’s no middle ground with it. And you can’t fake laughter.

“It doesn’t feel like work. I haven’t done a day’s work in me life.”

The comedian also spoke about his life-changing split-second decision to take a series of connecting flights to the US to surprise his now wife, Deeley, in LA on her birthday.

“Pulled up outside the Beverley Hills Hotel. I walked in. She, she fell off the chair and we’ve been together ever since.”

The comedian told McAleese he felt the release of his father’s killers under the Good Friday Agreement gave Northern Ireland a chance to ‘turn the page’.

“For the first time in history to be part of a generation that actually doesn’t continue that cycle of violence.

“And that means that, you know, the people who killed your dad are going to get out of jail, that’s a price worth paying. For the possibility of peace. Absolutely.

"I owe it to me aul fella to tell people what happened, so that things can be better.”

All Walks of Life will be shown on RTÉ One tonight at 8.30pm.

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