Kennedy: “More Irish than Harvard…”

Boston man Kevin Cullen with one of the sharpest pieces on Kennedy’s relationship with the Ireland

Among the family portraits are those of his grandfather, John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, the first Irish Catholic elected to the US House of Representatives from New England, and his brother, John, the first Irish Catholic elected president of the United States.

In a corner, there is a chess set, the pieces of which are figures from the North. Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley are knights. The pawns, more poignantly, are Provos and RUC men. Above the fireplace, there is a black-and-white road sign suggesting that Lough Gur is just one-and-a-half miles away, and in some ways it was.

The Kennedy consciousness was informed by its Irishness, by overcoming discrimination against Irish Catholics — which at the end of the 19th century was as systemic in Boston as it was in Northern Ireland — and by surviving politically motivated violence.

Four years ago, in a snub meant to encourage the IRA to disarm and disband, Kennedy refused to meet Gerry Adams in Washington on St Patrick’s Day.

Instead, he hosted the sisters and fiancee of Robert McCartney, the Belfast man murdered by IRA men months before. Claire McCartney, Mr McCartney’s youngest sister, said they met with much sympathy in Washington, but only Kennedy could offer them empathy. “He knows what it’s like,” she said. Kennedy later mended fences with Adams, calling to congratulate him after the IRA disarmed.