Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

KBRT founder meets Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss funding

The Newry man who founded the renowned Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust after the death of his son in a hit-and-run accident in New York in 2013 met with the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee last week to discuss potential funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Republic for the charity.

Colin Bell told the committee that in the last three years the trust has assisted in the repatriation of the remains of 212 Irish people who have died abroad.

Explaining how the trust came to be set up after the tragic death of his son Kevin in June 2013, Mr Bell recalled how the town of Newry went “into a frenzy of fundraising” after hearing the news of Kevin’s death, raising a staggering £150,000.  After Kevin’s employers in the US paid for his body to be brought home, the Bell family decided to use the money raised to help other families in the same situation.

A Carryduff man who died in Thailand a short time after Kevin was killed became the first person whose remains were repatriated to his family using money from the fund.  This marked the inception of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust (KBRT), and it went on to acquire charitable status in Northern Ireland.

Colin told the committee that the KBRT had since brought home 212 people and last November alone it repatriated the bodies of eight young people from Australia.

He outlined that every consulate and embassy has the number of the trust and repatriations have increased and stressed that the charity is family-run, with no-one taking any payment.  He said the trust requires €30,000 annually to cover the cost of the office and part-time staff and pointed out that the KBRT had applied for charitable status in the Republic 18 months ago and is still awaiting a response.

Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion told the committee that the Department of Foreign Affairs should be providing funding for the charity, especially as embassies and consulates are providing the trust’s contact details for repatriations.