Kennedy Smith given honorary citizenship
The US ambassador, Mrs Jean Kennedy Smith, has said "choice and circumstance" brought her to Ireland and she felt extremely fortunate to have played a "small part" in what has been an extraordinary period in Irish history.
Mrs Kennedy Smith was joined by her brother, Senator Edward Kennedy; her son, William; and a number of political representatives at a special ceremony at Aras an Uachtarain on Saturday when honorary Irish citizenship was conferred upon her.
The President, Mrs McAleese, and the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, signed the certificates clearing the way for Mrs Kennedy Smith, who leaves Ireland in the autumn, to become an Irish citizen from October 1st. She will be entitled to travel on an Irish passport.
Speaking at the conferral, Mrs McAleese said it was entirely fitting that "we should complete the circle begun almost 150 years ago when Patrick Kennedy of New Ross sailed for the United States. To his children and grand-children he handed a baton of love for Ireland. Today we are proud to hand his outstanding and distinguished descendant the highest accolade we can offer," she added.
As ambassador, Mrs Kennedy Smith had played a crucial role on behalf of the American people and the US government at this important time in Irish history, the President said. Recalling the words of the ambassador's brother, President John F. Kennedy, she said Ireland and the US, divided by distance, had been united by history.
The good wishes of the American people towards Ireland had been reflected in many generations since the time of Parnell, most recently by the personal interest of Mr Clinton, "without whose exceptional encouragement and support, the process of peace, reconciliation and partnership on this island would not be possible".
Mrs McAleese continued: "His goodwill towards Ireland was reflected in his decision to appoint Jean Kennedy Smith as ambassador in 1993. Since then she has devoted herself to her role with a fixedness of purpose and an energy which has helped us reshape our evolving history."
The ceremony was also attended by the Tanaiste, Ms Harney; the SDLP leader, Mr John Hume, and his wife, Pat; the Minister for the Marine, Dr Woods; the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Mr Ahern; the Attorney General, Mr David Byrne; Dr Martin Mansergh, from the Taoiseach's Department; and Mr Dermot Gallagher, from the Department of Foreign Affairs.