Jean Kennedy Smith, who was the last making it through sibling of President John F. Kennedy and who as a U.S. ambassador played a key function in the peace process in Northern Ireland, has died, loved ones said Thursday. She was 92.
Previous U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Smith’s nephew, confirmed her death. She died Wednesday at her house in Manhattan, her daughter Kym told The New York Times.
Smith was the eighth of 9 children born to Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy, and unfortunately several of them preceded her in death by years.
Smith, who married Kennedy family financial adviser and future White Home chief of personnel Stephen Edward Smith in 1956, was seen for much of her life as a peaceful sis who shunned the spotlight. In her memoir “The Nine of Us,” released in 2016, she composed that for much of the time her youth seemed “unexceptional.”
” It is tough for me to totally comprehend that I was growing up with bros who eventually inhabit the highest offices of our country, consisting of president of the United States,” she explained. “At the time, they were simply my playmates. They were the source of my amusement and the objects of my affection.”
Though she never ran for office, she campaigned for her bros, traveling the nation for then-Sen. In 1963, she stepped in for a traveling Jacqueline Kennedy and co-hosted a state dinner for Ireland’s president.
3 decades later, she was designated ambassador to Ireland by President Expense Clinton, who called her “as Irish as an American can be.”
Throughout her verification hearing, she remembered the journey with her sibling, explaining it as “one of the most moving experiences of my own life.”
As ambassador, she played a role in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Patrick Kennedy highlighted her role in the Irish peace process as the essence of her “huge legacy.”
” She knew it was important to bring everybody in order for there to be lasting peace,” Patrick Kennedy informed the AP. “She took a huge threat to her own credibility and stature as an ambassador.”
She later called criticism of her actions toward the IRA “unfortunate” and stated she believed history would credit the Clinton administration with helping the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said in 1998 that “it is not an understatement to say that if (the visa for Adams) didn’t occur at the time, maybe other occasions may not have formed.”
In 1996, though, Smith had actually been reprimanded by Secretary of State Warren Christopher for penalizing 2 of her officers who objected to the visa for Adams.
In December 1998, Smith once again risked debate by taking communion in a Protestant cathedral in Dublin, going against the bishops of her Roman Catholic church.
Her choice was a strong personal gesture of support for Irish President Mary McAleese, a fellow Catholic who had been criticized by Irish bishops for taking part the Protestant communion service.
” Religious beliefs, after all, is about bringing people together,” Smith informed The Irish Times. “All of us have our own method of going to God.”
Patrick Kennedy, remembered his aunt’s popularity, accessibility and constant travel around Ireland when he visited there with a delegation of Irish Americans from his state of Rhode Island. The post, he stated, allowed her to use her political side.
” It was like, all of the concealed, or suppressed desire to be a politician, which, of course went through her as with each of her brother or sisters, she got to live that out,” he stated.
When she stepped down as ambassador in 1998, she received Irish citizenship for “distinguished service to the nation.”
Diplomacy, together with politics, also ran in the Kennedy household. Her father was ambassador to the UK from 1938 to1940 Niece Caroline Kennedy functioned as ambassador to Japan during the Obama administration.
” We’re the very first father-daughter ambassadors,” Smith informed The Irish Times in1997 “So I can’t remember a time when we were not an actively political household.”
In 1974, Smith founded Extremely Unique Arts, an education program that supports artists with physical or psychological disabilities. Her 1993 book with George Plimpton, “Chronicles of Courage: Very Unique Artists,” includes interviews with handicapped artists. The program followed in the steps of her sister Eunice’s creation of the Unique Olympics for handicapped athletes.
Smith and her other half had 4 kids, Stephen Jr., William, Amanda and Kym. Her husband passed away in 1990.
Her child, Dr. William Kennedy Smith, made headings in 1991, when he was charged with rape at the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach, Florida. He was acquitted after an extremely publicized trial that included testament from his uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, who had awakened his nephew and boy to go to some clubs that Easter weekend.
Amongst Smith’s other siblings, Rosemary died in 2005; and Patricia in 2006.
” Definitely an unique quality of our household was its size,” Smith composed in her memoir. “A child in a big family continuously feels surrounded and supported. For me, there was constantly somebody to have fun with or someone to talk to just around the corner, out on the patio, or in the next bed room. I never felt alone.”
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