Saoirse Kennedy Hill's parents, Guildford Four's Paul Hill and Robert F Kennedy's daughter Courtney Kennedy, suffered another unthinkable tragedy - the death of their one daughter, named "freedom"
The Kennedys buried 22-year-old Saoirse Kennedy Hill on Monday, a beautiful young girl who lost her battle with depression.
They sang “When Saoirse’s Eyes Are Smiling” as the Kennedy clan bid farewell to a young woman who couldn't make it through the night.
Her father, Paul Hill, is one of the most impressive people I have met.
Wrongly convicted along with three others of the Guildford IRA bombings, he did 15 years in prison before being released.
It was a dreadful 15 years. Hill was tortured and targeted for brutal treatment. He was ghosted, moved without any notice from one jail to another more than any other prisoner. He lost the best years of his life, from 20-35.
Authorities knew almost right away they had the wrong men and one woman who they claimed were the Guildford Four. Yet they insisted on covering up rather than releasing them.
The Irish government at the time did far too little, opposing efforts by Irish Americans to win the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six their freedom. The relationship with Britain was considered more important than innocent men and women.
When Hill got out he had every right to be bitter, to be hateful, to drink himself into oblivion. Instead, he became a leading human rights advocate trying to ensure that nobody anywhere suffered what he had gone through.
Then there was Courtney Kennedy like Paul wounded early in life when an assassin took her beloved father Robert away just as he was making a determined bid for the presidency when she was only 12. Like Paul, she had a part of her life snatched away at a critical moment.
Courtney was one of the quiet Kennedys with a penchant for human rights work as well. So it was fitting she and Paul ended up together.
“She lost her youth and so did I. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” Paul told Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen years ago. Cullen wrote a superb column on Saoirse and her parents last weekend.
What a fitting name their little girl had when she was born. Saoirse, of course, means freedom in Irish and what two people deserved it more than Saoirse’s parents.
As Cullen wrote, “Knowing what Paul and Courtney endured in their personal lives, knowing what they overcame to have a relationship, and knowing just how much they loved their daughter makes Saoirse’s death on Thursday, at just 22, seem even more cruel.”
A deeply poignant photograph accompanied Cullen’s column of Paul and Courtney with little Saoirse walking the beach at Hyannis Port in July of 1996 after they had heard that John Kennedy Junior’s plane was missing.
It brings home the sadness that has attached itself to the Kennedy family, the numerous tragic deaths, dating back to Joe Junior killed during the Second World War, to JFK, RFK and so on down through the decades.
Now Saoirse has passed and a very familiar scene played out at the Kennedy compound last week.
To be Irish is to know the world will break your heart; to be a Kennedy is to know repeatedly what that feels like.
Farewell, beautiful Saoirse. You brought joy and happiness to so many.