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Jean Kennedy Smith, American diplomat and former US Ambassador to Ireland, has died aged 92

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Jean Kennedy Smith

Jean Kennedy Smith

Jean Kennedy Smith

American diplomat and former US Ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith, has died aged 92.

Ms Kennedy Smith, who is a sister of former US President John F Kennedy, died yesterday in her Manhattan home.

The Boston-born diplomat served as US Ambassador to Ireland between the years of 1993 and 1998.

Smith was widely respected for her humanitarian work in Ireland and won a number of awards for her work with disability groups here.

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Jean Kennedy Smith and Seamus Heaney at the official opening of the visitor centre at the Kennedy Homestead, Dunganstown, Wexford in 2013

Jean Kennedy Smith and Seamus Heaney at the official opening of the visitor centre at the Kennedy Homestead, Dunganstown, Wexford in 2013

Jean Kennedy Smith and Seamus Heaney at the official opening of the visitor centre at the Kennedy Homestead, Dunganstown, Wexford in 2013

She was awarded honorary citizenship by the Government of Ireland in 1998.

Ms Smith was also lauded for her peace efforts in Northern Ireland and received the Gold Medal Award from the Éire Society of Boston in 2007 for this for her and for her humanitarian work with disabled children.

President Michael D Higgins today paid tribute to Ms Smith, who he said had a big influence on him in her role in promoting "peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland".

“The news of the death of Jean Kennedy Smith will have been received with great sadness by many, both in the United States and in Ireland," he said.

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The Kennedy women (from left) Joan, Jean Kennedy Smith, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Jackie and Ethel

The Kennedy women (from left) Joan, Jean Kennedy Smith, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Jackie and Ethel

The Kennedy women (from left) Joan, Jean Kennedy Smith, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Jackie and Ethel

"As United States Ambassador to Ireland in the 1990s Ambassador Kennedy Smith played a pivotal role in the initiatives that led to the Good Friday Agreement which helped bring the violence in Northern Ireland to an end.

"She will be forever remembered as the diplomat who had a sense of Irish history and of what had influenced the Irish in the United States. An activist diplomat, she was not afraid to break with convention or explore the limits of her mandate. She brought passion and clear values to her role, providing many of the elements that promoted peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

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22/06/2013. Free To Use Image. Pictured after leaving The LE ORLA is Former Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith with the Eternal flame with Commodore Mark Mellettt flag officer naval services and Paul Kehoe TD. Picture Patrick Browne

22/06/2013. Free To Use Image. Pictured after leaving The LE ORLA is Former Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith with the Eternal flame with Commodore Mark Mellettt flag officer naval services and Paul Kehoe TD. Picture Patrick Browne

22/06/2013. Free To Use Image. Pictured after leaving The LE ORLA is Former Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith with the Eternal flame with Commodore Mark Mellettt flag officer naval services and Paul Kehoe TD. Picture Patrick Browne

"Sabina and I send our sincere condolences to her children and her wider family, and to all those who will have been deeply affected by her passing.”

She did, however, spark controversy in 1994 after convincing then-president Bill Clinton to grant Gerry Adams a US visa, despite him being labelled a terrorist by the British Government.

Ms Smith was the last remaining of eight siblings of JFK in a family that also included US Attorney General and US Senator Robert F. Kennedy, US Senator Ted Kennedy, and Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Ms Smith married Stephen Edward Smith, who died in 1990 and together they had four children.

In a statement the US embassy in Dublin said they were "deeply saddened" to hear of her death.

"Ambassador Kennedy Smith played a pivotal role in the peace process in Northern Ireland and devoted much of her time to moving Northern Ireland from the dark days of violence and despair to the brighter days of peace, reconciliation, and partnership," a spokesperson said.

"Throughout her life and during her tenure as Ambassador, she was an advocate for persons with disabilities and the founder of Very Special Arts, a non-profit organisation affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center that promotes the artistic talents of children, youth, and adults with disabilities.

"Ambassador Kennedy Smith worked tirelessly to strengthen the bonds of the US-Ireland relationship and to reinforce those "enduring links" the late President John F Kennedy spoke about fifty five years ago on his visit to Ireland, for which she accompanied him.

"In one of her final public speeches as Ambassador to Ireland, Ms. Kennedy Smith said, 'Though I am leaving soon, I am not really going away because my heart will always be here.' Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam."

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