FORMER United States Ambassador to Ireland and sister of former American President John F. Kennedy, Jean Kennedy Smith, has been remembered in County Limerick following her recent passing.
The last of JFK’s siblings, Kennedy Smith died aged 92 on June 17 at her home in New York. The U.S. Ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998, she played a pivotal role in forging the peace process in Northern Ireland where she was warmly received for her unorthodox diplomatic approach.
In October 1994, 15 months after she was appointed the United States Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Kennedy Smith took up an invite of late local historian Michael Quinlan to visit Lough Gur.
Jean visited Lough Gur in recognition of the fact that her grandfather and JKF’s grandfather first came from Lough Gur and then moved to Bruff and onto America. During her visit to County Limerick she named the newly-refurbished Honey Fitz Theatre in honour of her grandfather who got his nickname due to his sweet sounding singing voice.
In a letter to Mr Quinlan, inviting him to join her for Thanksgiving at her Phoenix Park residence following her visit to Limerick in 1994, she wrote: “One of the many things I am especially thankful for this year is the hospitality you extended to me when I visited your community.
“My sister, Pat, and I so appreciated the hospitality you showed us during our visit to ‘Fitzgerald Country’. It meant very much to both Pat and me that the town of Lough Gur would honour Honey Fitz and our Fitzgerald side of the family in this way. I know that neither of us will forget your generosity and kindness.”
Former chairman of Lough Gur Development, Tom Tierney, who attended that Thanksgiving dinner at the US Ambassador’s residence, remembers her Limerick visit with great fondness.
“Jean Kennedy Smith’s visit in 1994 was a wonderful occasion and the achievement of a life long goal of Michael Quinlan to bring a Kennedy back to their ancestral roots in Lough Gur. It was a wonderful occasion which then resulted in a number of us attending the US Ambassador residence in Dublin for Thanksgiving that November where we sang the songs associated with JFK grandfather John Francis Fitzgerald aka “Honey Fitz” to the delight of the Ambassador,” Mr Tierney told the Limerick Post this week.