‘Particularly difficult’ - Repatriation charity brought 33 bodies home last month

The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust has had its busiest year on record.
James Wilson
James Wilson

16.08 24 Aug 2023

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‘Particularly difficult’ - Rep...

‘Particularly difficult’ - Repatriation charity brought 33 bodies home last month

James Wilson
James Wilson

16.08 24 Aug 2023

Share this article

A charity that brings the bodies of Irish people who die abroad home to their families has said July was a “particularly difficult” month.

Over a 10-year period, the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust has helped around 160 families on average a year.

So far this year has been their busiest on record - with 255 Irish people repatriated so far.


“Last month in July was particularly difficult because we took 33 people home just last month,” Colin Bell told The Pat Kenny Show.

“Thankfully, we are so well supported by the Irish people that we were able to do it.”

The charity was born out of tragedy when, 10 years ago, the Bell family received a devastating call that would change their lives forever.

Their son Kevin had been killed in a hit and run in New York.

“We’re from Newry in County Down and we’d be a very well-known family in Newry through sport and drama and all sorts of things and the fact that we had seven children under six [at one point],” Mr Bell said.

“So, when news broke in Newry that Kevin had been killed, the town went into an absolute frenzy of fundraising to bring Kevin home.

“In the space of a week, there was £150,000 raised to bring Kevin home.”

The repatriation of Kevin's body did not cost anything close to the sum the community had raised and the Bell family had to decide what to do with the surplus.

“About a week after Kevin’s funeral, we learned of the death of a young fella from Belfast who had died in Thailand,” Mr Bell said.

“So, we reached out to his parents and said, ‘We have this money, we’ll pay to bring your son home.’

“The following week, there was a young fella from Sligo killed in Las Vegas - we saw it in the paper - and again we reached out to the family.

“The following week there was another one, then another, then another one.

“So, then we decided that we’d make this Kevin’s legacy and we applied for charity status in Northern Ireland here, then we applied for the charity regulator down South.”

Since then, the charity has helped bring home the bodies of at least 1,600 Irish people to their loved ones.

To some, constantly dealing with other bereaved families might seem like a difficult thing to do - but that is not how Mr Bell sees it.

“It’s not because his [Kevin’s] name is mentioned every day and his name is known throughout the world now, wherever there are Irish people.

“So, it’s our way of remembering Kevin and it’s his legacy and we’re very proud that he’s been able to help so many people.”

Wicker coffin carried into Catholic church in Derry.

The costs of repatriation varies greatly depending on the country; if an Irish person dies in Europe, it usually costs around €6,000, from Australia it might cost nearly €9,000 and from New York it could reach over €16,000.

“It doesn’t matter what the cost is, we’re quite prepared to pay it,” he said.

“There’s a grieving family waiting at home and if it costs €14,000, it costs €14,000 and it just has to be paid.”

Mr Bell said the charity is “very lucky” to have so many fundraisers in Ireland and among the diaspora.

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Main image: Mourners follow a coffin in rural Ireland. Picture by:


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