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Last Member Of Famous Family Dies, Jean Kennedy Smith Was 92

June 18, 2020

When we talk about American families that made an impact on the nation and carried us with them in good times and bad, none will compete for a higher standing than the Kennedy clan.  They are the best of who we are.


Jean Kennedy Smith, a Kennedy clan sister who as the United States ambassador to Ireland in the 1990s helped pave the way for a formal agreement to end decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, died on Wednesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 92.

She visited Northern Ireland, a British province and not her turf, and met repeatedly with Gerry Adams, the head of the I.R.A.’s political wing, Sinn Fein, though American policy forbade it.

While many officials in London and at the State Department believed she was exceeding her authority and regarded Mr. Adams as a terrorist mouthpiece, Ms. Smith helped clear the way for a visa that let him go to the United States to make his case for a cease-fire and British withdrawal from Ulster.

Almost overnight, he became a popular son of Ireland in America. Six months later, on Aug. 31, 1994, a cease-fire was declared. At the behest of Ms. Smith, Senator Kennedy and others, Mr. Clinton met with Mr. Adams at the White House in 1995, granting a measure of respectability to Sinn Fein.

When the cease-fire broke down in 1996 over the continued exclusion of Sinn Fein from the peace talks, Ms. Smith summoned Joe Cahill, the I.R.A. leader, and upbraided him. Sinn Fein was finally admitted to the talks, and the cease-fire was restored in 1997. Negotiations led by former Senator George J. Mitchell produced the Belfast Agreement in April 1998.


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