Book of condolence signed by Taoiseach


US AMBASSADOR Dan Rooney paid tribute to the late US senator Edward Kennedy yesterday, as people queued to sign a book of condolence in Dublin.

Mr Kennedy died on Wednesday after a 15-month struggle with cancer.

After greeting Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who signed the book on behalf of the people of Ireland, Mr Rooney said he would remember the late Mr Kennedy first as a friend who had done so much for him over the years.

Mr Kennedy was also the leading legislator and senator of our time, he said, and would be missed for his ability to get things done. He could be tough, but always had a good heart.

“He really was for the downtrodden people who needed assistance, he did things right,” the ambassador said.

Mr Cowen, who did not speak to the press, wrote in the book of condolence in both English and Irish. His message conveyed deepest sympathy to the American people on behalf of the Irish people on the loss of Mr Kennedy.

“We have lost a loyal and dear friend who will be remembered with great affection by all of us whose privilege it was to work with him,” the message said.

Dignitaries from other embassies around the city also arrived to sign the book including Brazilian ambassador Pedro Fernando Bretas Bastos. The ambassador said he was attending personally as well as in his diplomatic capacity.

“The Kennedys were an inspiration for people of my generation,” he said.

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Haughey said Mr Kennedy had been a great friend of Ireland and of the Haughey family. The senator had visited his father, former taoiseach Charles Haughey, on Inishvickillane and at Abbeville.

“He was larger than life, full of fun and full of charisma . . . He worked hard, but I think it’s fair to say, he played hard as well,” he said.

The book of condolence was set up on a table in the embassy’s entrance. Two members of staff flanked it, and on the wall above it were photos of US president Barack Obama, vice-president Joe Biden and secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

An American flag was set up to one side and behind a glass screen a white-capped marine watched the proceedings.

A steady stream of visitors attended the embassy all day yesterday. Tight security meant they queued outside on the street and were allowed to enter in twos and threes.

Mother-of-three Mary Tuthill from Strawberry Beds in Dublin said Mr Kennedy was very instrumental in the peace process in the North.

“He made Ireland a better island for our children and now that I am a mother I want to recognise that on behalf of my children,” she said.

Noelle Smyth and her daughter Claire had met Mr Kennedy on a few occasions. They described him as “a very jolly man, very pleasant and very genuine”.

“My dad used to work as a driver here in the embassy and we met Ted a couple of times; he was a lovely man, always very friendly, he’ll be missed,” Claire said.

Irene Farrelly from Rathgar, who was a little put off by security at the embassy, said Mr Kennedy was an international humanitarian.

There were also visitors from the US who were holidaying in Dublin when they heard of Mr Kennedy’s passing.

Lois Valladares from Washington DC said the senator was an extraordinary person who had lived his life with grace and the whole country and the world had benefited.

Her partner, Dermott McDermott, originally from Dublin, said he had been a beneficiary of Mr Kennedy’s immigration reform work. He was pleased to be able to show his gratitude.

Bonnie Friedman and Gerald Miller from Los Angeles, California, both hoped Mr Kennedy’s death might spur on senators to pass the healthcare Bill, which had been opposed by health insurers.

Sarah Kennedy from Somerville, Massachusetts, said of all the Kennedys, the senator had achieved the most for the people.

The book of condolence will remain open today.