LIMERICK’S links to the Kennedy family were strengthened this week with the visit of Rory Kennedy, daughter of Senator Bobby Kennedy.
On a visit to the University of Limerick where the humanitarian documentary film maker spoke about her 35 year career, life and famous family, Limerick’s strong links to the famous dynasty were much discussed.
UL president Professor Don Barry said links to the clan “continue to be strengthened” and spoke of the ancestral connection to Bruff, where her great, great grandfather Thomas Fitzgerald emigrated from in 1847, bound for Boston.
He said it was a “great honour” to welcome Rory, husband Mark and three children to the UL campus.
“Limerick has a claim on the Kennedys’ as Frances Condell, the first woman to hold the post as Mayor of Limerick, welcomed President Kennedy here in 1963,” he said.
“It is wonderful that we can continue to build on these links over half a century later with the visit of Rory and her family,” he added.
Ms Kennedy, whose cousin Caroline visited Bruff last year, said she and husband Mark were making their second trip to Ireland, but had brought their children this time “so they could go on this journey with us”.
She spoke fondly of her family’s connections to the area and of her uncle’s famous visit to the city and particularly Frances Condell, who, she said “really made an impression on him”.
“I feel a connection to Limerick and I am very happy to be here and I feel very much at home. Knowing the story about the Fitzgeralds leaving here and the Kennedys leaving New Ross - it is really such an extraordinary story,” she said.
“I know that my uncle when he came here, he was deeply touched by the speech that Frances Condell gave. He said it was the best speech here that anybody had given - he was deeply moved by it,” she added.
The family visited Bunratty Castle and Folkpark and John F Kennedy Memorial School for Boys on the Ennis Road, followed by the trip to UL, where she was interviewed by Dr Eoin Devereux of UL’s Sociology Department about her life and career as a documentary film maker.
She raised JFK school’s first Green Flag for Biodiversity during her visit and said the children in the school were “really terrific kids”.
“It was lovely and the kids were wonderful and I love all the work they are doing there in trying to protect the environment,” she said.
“It is so nice and such an honour and it was really wonderful to be there. The kids were super sweet.”
Asked about the campaign to rename the Shannon Bridge after her uncle, she didn’t flinch.
“Yes, I think they should do that. My family would be very honoured and it seems well suited.
“A bridge - there is nothing better than because you are bridging communities and differences and my uncle really dedicated his life to that kind of effort. So I think they should name the bridge after my uncle.”
The proposal was first raised by former councillor Pat Kennedy earlier this year, but has since been shelved due to an eruption of mild controversy over the idea.
Ms Kennedy did not shirk any question about her famous father and uncle, answering a question about the supposed “Kennedy curse” with graceful ease.
“I have only known ever to be a member of my family so I can’t really speak to it in any objective way. But I love my family and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.
“I think every family struggles and every family has had loss and sadness.
“Ours is more public, and there have certainly been a number of tragic events, but you look at other families around the world and I feel actually just extraordinarily lucky.”
Ms Kennedy was invited by the university as part of its commitment to diversity.
An Emmy award winning documentary film maker, the youngest of the 11 children of Senator Bobby and Ethel Kennedy, who died six months after her father was killed, recently made a documentary about her mother’s life, despite her protestations.
“I was asked to make this film Ethel about my mother - it is not a subject I would normally have done, but my executives were quite insistent and then my mother, it turned out, was open to it,” she explained.
“I thought since she was that I should do it, because I don’t think she would tell her story otherwise. I was pretty confident about that, so I am now happy that I did it.”