Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith pictured in Ireland in 1997. Photocall photo archive.
By Ray O’Hanlon
Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith has died in New York aged 92.
As U.S. Ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998, Kennedy Smith played a pivotal role in the emergence of the Irish peace process.
Kennedy smith was the last surviving child of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.
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Tributes were flowing in today for a woman who, by comparison with her brothers, was a low key political and diplomatic presence, but one who worked tirelessly over the years for peace in Ireland and other causes.
And those tributes flowed from both sides of the Atlantic.
The U.S. Embassy in Dublin said it was deeply saddened to hear of Kennedy Smith’s death.
The statement said: “Ambassador Kennedy Smith played a pivotal role in the peace process in Northern Ireland and devoted much of her time to moving Northern Ireland from the dark days of violence and despair to the brighter days of peace, reconciliation, and partnership.
“Ambassador Kennedy Smith worked tirelessly to strengthen the bonds of the U.S.-Ireland relationship and to reinforce those ‘enduring links’ the late President John F Kennedy spoke about 57 years ago on his visit to Ireland, for which she accompanied him.
“In one of her final public speeches as Ambassador to Ireland, Ms. Kennedy Smith said: ‘Though I am leaving soon, I am not really going away because my heart will always be here.'”
President Michael D Higgins said Kennedy Smith played a pivotal role in the initiatives that led to the Good Friday Agreement.
President Higgins, said an RTE report, said the news of her death will have been received with great sadness by many, both in the United States and in Ireland.
“She will be forever remembered as the diplomat who had a sense of Irish history and of what had influenced the Irish in the United States. An activist diplomat, she was not afraid to break with convention or explore the limits of her mandate.
“She brought passion and clear values to her role, providing many of the elements that promoted peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
“Sabina and I send our sincere condolences to her children and her wider family, and to all those who will have been deeply affected by her passing.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald paid tribute saying: “As soon as being appointed Ambassador to Ireland by President Clinton in 1993, Jean Kennedy Smith proved to be a serious and effective player in the emerging peace process and a valuable conduit to the White House and the U.S. Congress in Washington.
“The youngest daughter of the Kennedy family, Jean was able to employ her considerable skills and access to great effect and to promote the cause of peace.
“She embodied the Kennedy family’s connections with Ireland and was a popular figure for the duration of her tenure. She has left her mark on our history, our peace process, and her legacy lives on across Ireland.”