Many leaders from around Irish America fondly remembered Ted Kennedy, the man who led many a battle in the senate to the finish line with triumph and pride.
Friend and colleague of Kennedy, Congressman Richie Neal, (D- MA), described the 77-year-old senator’s passing as a “loss” for the country.
“The United States of America has lost one of its strongest voices for fairness, equality and justice,” said Neal, who is chairman of the Friends of Ireland group in Congress.
“Personally, I have lost a treasured friend. From civil rights to health care, from voting rights to Head Start, Ted Kennedy played a significant role in the passage of some of the most important legislation in our lifetime. I have often said his record in the United States Senate is unrivaled. And I believe history will remember him as the most effective individual to ever serve in that institution”
He continued, “The Ted Kennedy his friends and colleagues knew was a kind, considerate, generous, funny, thoughtful and hard working person whose presence lit up the room. His personality and charisma were contagious. He loved his family and spoke about them with great pride.
“During good times and bad, he was always there with a phone call or a note. When it came to western and central Massachusetts, he always offered to help. He was a master of detail. His ability to work across the aisle was legendary.”
Kennedy, said Neal, changed people’s lives and towards the end did everything he could to make the most of it.
“At the end of the day, Ted Kennedy made a difference in the lives of countless individuals. For the past year he faced one of the most difficult challenges of his life. But he did so with characteristic dignity and grace. Whether it was sailing on Cape Cod in his beloved Mya, or throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park, he taught us how to live life while facing adversity. And in the process he became an inspiration for us all”
Neal said Kennedy’s legacy will live on.
“His extraordinary life and legacy will never be forgotten.”
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to call Ted Kennedy my friend. During this difficult hour, my thoughts and prayers are with Vicki, Kara, Edward Jr, Patrick, Curran, Caroline and the rest of the Kennedy family. May he rest in peace,” said Neal.
Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus also had warm words to say about Kennedy;
“God rest Teddy's noble Irish soul. Despite his fame and fortune, he never forgot the disadvantaged, the poor or the oppressed. Because he 'loved justice and... hated iniquity' ( Is.61:8) he will have a high place in Heaven,” said McManus.
The Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers in the U.S. said in a statement released on Wednesday that the Senator will be a “huge loss” to the immigrant community.
“Senator Kennedy was a central figure in U.S. politics displaying a tireless commitment to issues of justice, immigrants, civil rights and the poor. Through his many legislative successes he managed to have a direct, and positive effect on the lives of millions of Americans.
It continued, “Through his long career Senator Kennedy never lost his idealism or his belief that each of us can contribute to positive change. We saw that when he took up case of reforming our immigration system a number of years ago. He exhorted all immigrants to join him in the fight for change. His speeches at the ILIR rallys in Washington DC were passionate and memorable.”
Chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR), Bart Murphy, said the organization “deeply mourns” the passing of Senator Kennedy.”
“He was, without doubt, the uncrowned King of Irish America for the last two generations and in many respects is irreplaceable,” said Murphy from Ireland on Wednesday.
“One of our abiding memories is of the thousands of ILIR members that experienced his political power, intellect and compassion on behalf of the Irish undocumented at our Washington immigration rally in 2006. It’s a memory those people will carry forward for years.”
Murphy said the ILIR hopes that other political leaders will take the time to understand the issues of Irish America with the same commitment and passion as Kennedy did.
“We would honor Kennedy’s memory and life’s work by pushing for comprehensive immigration reform and a future path for Irish migrants to come to the US,” added Murphy.
Congressman Joseph Crowley, (D- NY) said Kennedy inspired his political career from day one.
“Senator Kennedy approached every issue he championed with a fiery passion and a cool rationality – always extending an open hand to those who he did not see eye-to-eye with him and working hard to find common ground,” said Crowley.
“From civil rights, to the Irish peace process, to the health care reform legislation we are on the cusp of enacting, Senator Kennedy led his colleagues and the entire nation forward with compassion and understanding for all. He will be terribly missed.
“My heartfelt condolences go to the Kennedy family, especially my good friend and colleague, Patrick Kennedy.”
Across the pond, Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, who worked closely with Kennedy on the Irish Peace process, had this to say,
“It is with great sadness that I heard of the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. He has served the American people with courage and commitment for nearly 50 years.”
Added Adams, “His service to Ireland through his role in the Peace Process was exceptional and contributed significantly to its progress.”
“Senator Kennedy also carried out sterling work with, and on behalf of the undocumented Irish in the United States and brought forward proposals to see this issue, that affects so many, resolved.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen also remembered fondly how Kennedy was a champion in the peace process.
"In good days and bad, Ted Kennedy worked valiantly for the cause of peace on this island,” said Cowen.
"Ted hailed from a most famous Irish-American family, and through his own endeavors and achievement, he has added further luster to the reputation of a great family,” added Cowen
Former Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, who worked side by side with Kennedy on many occasions during the Northern Ireland peace talks, said the U.S. had lost a “great leader.”
"He lived to see two great chasms bridged, between Catholic and Protestant in Northern Ireland and between black and white in his own United States," said Ahern.
"These achievements, which were the dreams imagined by his brothers in his youth, were the legacy of a long life and of a good and great man who, no matter how often he stumbled or the cause stalled, continued with a tenacity and a great belief that was the hallmark of everything he did and of the man he was."
President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, said the Senator would be “remembered as a hugely important friend to this country during the very difficult times."
"His death will be greeted with a great sense of sadness here because of his long standing affection for this country, not just with the peace process, but on many other issues, including emigration," said McAleese.
"His outstanding and remarkable personal contribution was made, despite the sacrifice and sorrow that was part of the overall contribution of the entire Kennedy Family," she added.
Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin hailed Kennedy as "a true and loyal friend of Ireland."
"Ted Kennedy knew and loved Ireland - its people, its music and its culture. As the embodiment of the Irish immigrant story, his special dedication to the peace process was unrivaled and deeply held. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his true and loyal friendship and steadfast support, particularly during the process which resulted in the Good Friday Agreement," said Martin.
Democratic Unionist Politician, Jeffrey Donaldson, said Kennedy, through time, came to understand his side of the fence also.
"I think Ted Kennedy came to understand that the situation in Northern Ireland was much more complex than the simple notions that had been put into his head by republican propaganda," said Donaldson.
"As the years passed, he did moderate his position somewhat and in the end he realized some of the stances he had earlier taken were not helpful."
“Kennedy had gradually embarked on a journey that led him to an acceptance of Protestant rights and opinions in Northern Ireland,” Donaldson said.
Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny TD said that Kennedy’s passing “represents the end of an era during which he and his family have given a half century of service to the American people in Congress.”
Kenny warmly remembered Kennedy’s great friendship with Ireland.
“He will be remembered particularly warmly in this country for his unstinting support for Irish causes. His work during the conflict in Northern Ireland and the peace process was crucial in ensuring ongoing US Government support for a settlement. This proved to be a vital driving force for peace.”
Kenny also recognized the work Kennedy did on behalf of the estimated 50,000 Irish undocumented in the U.S.
“In recent years, he spearheaded efforts to find a solution to regularize the status of the tens of thousands of undocumented Irish people who are living and working in the United States. He has also been a strong supporter of U.S. investment in Ireland.
“As a United States Senator for so many years, Ted Kennedy won the respect and admiration of his peers from both sides of the aisle. This is a testament to his qualities as a legislator and to his integrity and warm personality.”