Kennedy to be knighted by queen

 

SENATOR EDWARD Kennedy has accepted an honorary knighthood from Britain’s Queen Elisabeth in recognition of his contribution to peace in the North and to the relationship between Britain and the United States.

Announcing the award during an address to the joint houses of Congress yesterday, British prime minister Gordon Brown praised the Democrat’s political achievements at home and abroad.

“I know that you will allow me to single out for special mention today one of your most distinguished senators, known in every continent and a great friend,” Mr Brown said. “Northern Ireland today is at peace, more Americans have healthcare, children around the world are going to school, and for all those things we owe a great debt to the life and courage of senator Edward Kennedy.” The announcement was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation.

Mr Kennedy (76), who is suffering from a malignant brain tumour, is the latest in a succession of prominent Irish-Americans to accept British honours.

Last year businessman Dan Rooney, a co-founder of the Ireland Funds who is widely expected to be named the next US ambassador to Ireland, became an honorary commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), while New York hotelier John Fitzpatrick was named an honorary officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). Other Irish-American recipients include New York lawyer John Connorton, who was awarded a CBE in 2004 for his work towards peace in the North.

Few Americans have received honorary knighthoods, which allow them to use the letters KBE after their name. Recent recipients include former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former president George HW Bush.

Mr Kennedy, who plans to return to work in Washington later this week, said he was “deeply grateful” for the honour.

“I have always prized the opportunity to work with the British government and strengthen and deepen the role of our two countries as leading beacons of democracy in the world,” he said.

“I am proud that I was able to play a part in the decades-long effort to bring peace to Northern Ireland.” Mr Kennedy recalled his family’s ties to Britain, where his father served as ambassador and from where his brother, Joseph Kennedy jnr, left for his final combat mission in the second World War, dying in action in 1944. “So for me this honour is moving and personal – a reflection not only of my public life, but of things that profoundly matter to me as an individual,” he said.

“I accept this honour in the spirit in which it is given, with a continuing commitment to be a voice for the voiceless and for the shared ideals of freedom and fairness which are so fundamental to the character of our two countries.”