Veteran US Senator Edward Kennedy is to be granted an honorary knighthood, but Gordon Brown’s announcement has sparked major criticism of the decision. The 77-year-old brother of President John Kennedy was honoured for his service to the UK-US relationship and the Northern Ireland peace process.
Senator Kennedy is being treated for a brain tumour and was unable to attend the announcement of his honour in a speech to both Houses of Congress by Mr Brown.
Addressing Congress, Mr Brown said: “I hope that you will allow me to single out for special mention today one of your most distinguished senators, known in every continent and a great friend.
“Northern Ireland is today at peace, more Americans have health care, more children around the world are going to school and for all those things we owe a great debt to the life and courage of Senator Edward Kennedy.
“And so today, having talked to him last night, I want to announce that Her Majesty the Queen has awarded an honorary knighthood for Sir Edward Kennedy.”
However, Lord Tebbit, who wife was left in a wheelchair after suffering horrific injuries in the IRA’s Brighton bombing of the Conservative party conference in 1984 said: “Edward Kennedy may never have said outwardly he supported the IRA but he certainly leaned towards extreme republicanism. He was certainly no friend of the UK.
“This honour is wholly inappropriate on the basis of the sleaze attached to him after the crash at Chappaquiddick, let alone his support for nationalism in Northern Ireland. It cheapens the whole honours system”.
Former Home Office Minister Ann Widdecombe, now a Tory backbencher, added: “It seems to me a bit of an odd choice, but diplomacy has no bounds.”
Former Northern Ireland minister Michael Ancram questioned the “appropriateness of the award”.
“I was surprised because those who really helped in Northern Ireland, like George Mitchell, made it clear they worked for both parts of the community whereas Ted Kennedy visibly supported one part, the republican movement,” he said.
However, a DUP spokesman said: “How times have changed. One of the great champions of Irish nationalism on Capitol Hill receiving an honorary knighthood.”
Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer in May last year. It came after he was rushed to hospital with stroke-like symptoms.
He has since had chemotherapy and radiation to treat the malignant glioma, a lethal type of brain tumour.
Kennedy suffered another seizure during President Barack Obama’s inaugural lunch in January, but was released from hospital a day later.
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