Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Edward Kennedy 1932 - 2009

It is a remarkable thing that when famous people die, we always seem to want to eulogise them and say positive things about them. Sometimes we do that about truly great people, sometimes about complete swines. And sometimes we eulogise about people somewhere in between.

The death of Senator Edward Kennedy, the youngest of the ill-fated Kennedy brothers, was announced at breakfast this morning. He leaves behind him an impressive senatorial career and can quite rightly be credited with putting his name to legislation which has improved the lot of the disadvantaged in American society.

But, having a background in Massachusetts and thus Boston, the spectre of Irish (or more correctly "pseudo-Irish") politics was always. His attitude to the "Irish Question" was at best naive and at worst simply smacked of pandering up to the "Irish Vote" by making all sorts of ill-founded accusations about the status of Northern Ireland.

Kennedy's father Joseph, whose faith in a British victory in WWII was non-existent when he was Ambassador to the UK, was no friend of Britain and this perhaps brushed off on his youngest son more than the others. People who were raising money for those bombing, maiming and killing were feted as "freedom fighters" by that same "pseudo-Irish American" community whose votes Kennedy wanted. They (like their loyalist counterparts; there's no sectarianism from me here, make no mistake) were terrorists, plain and simple. The same as those who flew planes into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon and who bombed bars in Bali and trains and buses in London. I cannot today but think ruefully - as many have done since then - that it took those awful events in September 2001 to make some sections of American society see terrorism (ie murder) for what it is.

And it is that, not Chappaquiddick, which stains Kennedy's character for me.

Perhaps Kennedy's greatest achievement was that he - unlike all his brothers - lived a natural life span.

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