Kennedy Smith settles case over funding request

 

The former United States ambassador to Ireland, Mrs Jean Kennedy Smith, has paid $5,000 in settlement of allegations that she breached American conflict-of-interest laws by seeking a $1 million donation from the Government for a Kennedy cultural centre.

According to a Reuters report, on August 5th, 1998 Mrs Kennedy Smith wrote to the Taoiseach on US Department of State headed paper requesting $1 million for an Irish festival to be held in spring 2000 at the John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

Mrs Kennedy Smith, the sister of the late US president John F. Kennedy, served as ambassador to Dublin from mid-1993 until October 1998.

Responding to the report, a Government official said early this morning that the matter "was a private one between the US Justice Department and Mrs Kennedy Smith."

But the official confirmed that the State made "some form of donation" to the Kennedy Centre and that the Taoiseach visited the festival this year.

At the time that she wrote to the Taoiseach, Mrs Kennedy Smith served on the board of trustees of the Kennedy Centre, a non-profit, charitable organisation which sponsors cultural events and hosts music and dance performances.

Before she became ambassador, Mrs Kennedy Smith wrote a letter to the US State Department promising that she would not seek funding for the Kennedy Centre.

Mrs Kennedy Smith said in a statement last night that her actions were "entirely proper" and that she derived no financial benefit from her request or from the festival. She denied violating the law and said that as ambassador she had sought to conduct herself "in accord with the highest ethical standards."

"In short, I believe there was absolutely no conflict of interest on my par," she said.

In 1994 Mrs Kennedy Smith ruffled feathers in Washington and London by successfully lobbying for the Sinn Fein leader, Mr Gerry Adams, to be granted a visa to enter the US ahead of the first IRA ceasefire.