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'The Quiet Kennedy' Is Dead

Jean Kennedy Smith helped bring peace to Northern Ireland
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2020 8:46 AM CDT

(Newser) – Jean Kennedy Smith, the former US ambassador to Ireland and last surviving sibling of John F. Kennedy, has died. The eighth of nine children, also known as "the quiet Kennedy," Kennedy Smith passed away of an unknown cause Wednesday at her Manhattan home, aged 92, reports the Washington Post. She wasn't simply known for her famous name. Kennedy Smith became "the first Kennedy woman of her generation to take on a serious political role" in serving as ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998—a role in which she "helped pave the way for a formal agreement to end decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland," per the New York Times. Against US policy, she visited the British province of Northern Ireland to meet with Gerry Adams, leader of the Irish Republican Army’s political wing, Sinn Fein.

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Kennedy Smith, the widow of New York financier Stephen E. Smith, assisted Adams in traveling to the US, where he called for a ceasefire and the British withdrawal from Ulster. A ceasefire came six months later, in August 1994. When it broke down two years later, Kennedy Smith continued to advocate for peace and eventually saw the passage of 1998's Belfast Agreement. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once said she "may well be the best politician of all the Kennedys," per the Post. "I felt I was in a position where I could contribute," she later said. Kennedy Smith also introduced her friend Jacqueline Bouvier to her brother John, took part in her brothers' political campaigns, and did charity work on behalf of disabled children, for which she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. She's survived by four children and six grandchildren. (Read more Jean Kennedy Smith stories.)

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