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You'll go on in our hearts: Daughter's tribute to GP Paul Conn killed in race accident

Paul Conn

Dr Paul Conn, who died last Saturday

2 August 2019

Hundreds of mourners gathered in Belfast yesterday to pay their respects to a GP who died in a racing car accident last weekend.

Dr Paul Conn (60), from Lisburn, worked in the Ballygomartin Group Practice and a was member of the 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland for over 20 years.

Witnesses said the married father-of-three died instantly at around 3.30pm last Saturday when his car left the track at Kirkistown race circuit while trying to overtake a car.

Family members and friends of the "visionary GP" paid tribute to his "disarming smile" yesterday, and also heard of his final moments.

His brother-in-law Dermot Neely led the service, having first met him while they studied medicine at Queen's University.

"Nobody expected to be here today, least of all Paul, who wouldn't have expected to be at a funeral or memorial for any of his friends, he was far too young," he said.

He said Dr Conn developed a love of motorsports early on, once hiding a Honda CV200 motorbike at a friends house for six months before his mother found out.

With busy family and work lives, he said the wider family had dreamed of getting to spend more time together in retirement.

"That was not to be, Paul's gone. That retirement is never going to happen," he added.

As a GP, Paul "was a master of little things that matter to people".

"A kind word, a listening ear, a wise counsel. Of course, that disarming smile that we saw in all his pictures," he said.

"Maybe Paul just wasn't cut out for old age.

"He certainly hadn't bought into the cardigan and comfy shoes."

Dr Conn's father Gilbert died last year at the age of 85.

"I'm glad he was spared the anguish of Paul's untimely death," Mr Neely said.

"Mercifully, Paul won't suffer the indignities of old age and terminal illness like his father did during his final days.

"He will also be spared the pain that goes with the inevitable loss of loved ones.

"But the pain is not over for the friends and loved ones that he left behind."

Dr Conn's daughter Amy was applauded after reading out a poem in his memory.

One line read: "We know him so well, we know every thought. You may have departed but will go on in our hearts. Thank you dad, you taught us so well."

Kieron Smyth had known Dr Conn through motor racing for over 20 years.

After winning his first race of the day, he said his friend "was in the zone and enjoying himself with not a care in the world".

Mr Smyth said: "And so he went out for a second time and was in another real race, then something happened and he was gone in the blink of an eye.

"He wouldn't even have known that he was gone.

"We will take comfort from that and talk about it among ourselves.

"We'll discuss it and we'll learn from it in the knowledge that we're not immortal.

"Some of you will wonder how we can even consider going back to Kirkistown and get back into our cars again and drive again.

"That's not an easy thing to answer and every one of us will have a different answer, but in essence our answers will all be the same.

"We have discovered a magic kingdom, we aren't going to get old. We may not be immortal but we will pretend and we will go back.

"So we will put on our magic suits and our superhero helmets, get in our rocket ships and go back out and play.

"As far as we're concerned, the doc will still be with us."


Dr Paul Conn tributes after Lisburn man dies at Kirkistown race

Paul Conn BL

Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a popular Belfast doctor who died in a racing accident over the weekend.

Dr Paul Conn, who spent the majority of his career working at Ballygomartin Group Practice , died on Saturday, July 27, following the incident at Kirkistown Circuit on the Ards Peninsula .

Friends and patients have paid tribute to the much-loved GP who had a passion for motor racing.

500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland secretary Richard Young said Dr Conn, who lived in Lisburn , was a "very much valued member of the club" and a "totally nice guy".

"When he was not racing he would have helped on the medical side," he added.

In a statement on their Facebook page on Sunday, the 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland said: "It is with regret that we at The 500 Motor Racing Club Of Ireland have to confirm that the competitor who tragically lost his life in the second Roadsports race at our meeting yesterday (Saturday 27th July 2019) was our member and friend for over twenty years, Doctor Paul Conn.

"Paul was from Lisburn. He joined our club in 1996 and during the intervening years he campaigned his Crosslé 47S with increasing success. In 2018 he seemed to reach a new level of skill and he began to trouble the established top echelon of drivers in Roadsports, winning in the second race of the May meeting.

"Yesterday he had already won the first Roadsports race, against top opposition, and he was on course for a repeat in the second race when he had an accident opposite the control tower, on the front straight. Because of the location of the incident, our doctors and the Order Of Malta personnel were in attendance almost immediately but, unfortunately, Paul succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

"Once again, we offer our severe condolences to Paul’s family, friends, colleagues and team. He will be sorely missed."

On Saturday, the club confirmed a competitor had lost their life and that officials were working with the police to establish precisely what happened.

Tributes have poured in on social media for Dr Conn with one patient saying the GP "always had time for his patients" and "nothing was ever to much trouble for him".

Another added: "He was a fantastic inspiration to everyone in the racing world and to his patients. One unforgettable gentleman."

Formula Vee Ireland also shared their shock on Facebook and wrote: "We are all so shocked and saddened at Formula Vee Ireland to hear of the loss of a member of the Motorsport community at the track we all know so well - while we love our sport, it's a cruel reminder of just how dangerous it can be.

"We would like to express our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Paul Conn at this extraordinarily difficult time.

"Our thoughts also go out to all marshals, medics, & motorsport officials who attended the scene in the immediate aftermath of the accident, along with all others present at the paddock this weekend."

Local DUP councillor Brian Kingston told Belfast Live: "He would have helped hundreds if not thousands of families over the years. He was a much-loved family doctor and GP in the Greater Shankill area.

"This has caused a great deal of shock and I would like to extend my deepest condolences and sympathies to his family circle at this terribly tragic time."

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