Category: Archive

Diplomat Eamon Kennedy dead, served Ireland in UN

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Eamon Luke Kennedy, a career Irish diplomat who served as Ambassador of

Ireland to the United Nations and to Britain, died Dec. 12 after a long illness, one day shy of his 79th birthday.

Born in Dublin the son of an electrician, he was a scholar who earned a doctorate in economics from University College, Dublin.

Kennedy entered Ireland’s foreign service in 1943 and represented his country in Paris and Ottawa, moving to New York in the mid-1950s when Ireland first joined the UN. During the idealistic early days of the UN, he was deeply involved in efforts to foster the emerging independence of former European colonies in Africa.

Recently declassified documents show his was an early voice against apartheid who successfully urged his government in 1957 to stand against the "deplorable" system long before any other European nation.

In 1960, he married Barbara Jane Black, daughter of Chock Full ‘o Nuts founder William Black. They met at the UN, where she was a journalist.

Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo

Subscribe to one of our great value packages.

In 1961, he opened Ireland’s first embassy in Nigeria, becoming the first Irish ambassador anywhere in the Third World.

Three years later, he took over the embassy in Bonn, Germany, where his

two children were born.

He became ambassador to France in 1970, arriving just days before a July 4, 1970 terrorist bomb heavily damaged the Paris embassy as he and his family slept within. They were miraculously unscathed.

He returned to New York in 1974, where he served as ambassador to the United Nations until 1978.

In 1978, he became Ireland’s ambassador to Britain, perhaps the most delicate job in the Irish foreign service. During his five years in London, relations between the two countries were strained by a series of

IRA bombings and a long hunger strike by Irish prisoners at Britain’s Maze prison. Despite the discouraging times — and a steady stream of death threats — Kennedy never lost his optimism that diplomacy would end the violence. (Setting the difficult tone for those years, Kennedy arrived in London to present his credentials to Queen Elizabeth on the eve of the IRA’s assassination of her popular uncle, Lord Mountbatten.)

In 1983, he moved Rome.

Kennedy spoke seven languages, rising at dawn for most of his life to spend several hours working on grammar and fluency. He retired to New York in 1987, splitting his time between Manhattan and Cutchogue, L.I.

Kennedy is survived by his wife; his daughter, Helen, a Daily News reporter in Washington, D.C.; his son, Mark, a national editor at the Associated Press in New York; his sister, Doris Quish, of Dublin; and

several nieces and nephews.

Private services will be held in Dublin.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese