Belfast Telegraph

Daughter (22) of Guildford Four's Paul Hill dies in US from 'drug overdose'

Saoirse Kennedy Hill
Saoirse Kennedy Hill
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Saoirse Kennedy Hill, daughter of the Guildford Four's Paul Hill and a granddaughter of assassinated US presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy, has died in the USA in the latest tragedy to befall one of America's great political dynasties.

Ms Hill, who was the daughter of the former US Attorney General and 91-year-old Ethel Kennedy's fifth child Courtney, passed away at the family compound on Cape Cod.

Her heartbroken grandmother issued a moving tribute, saying "the world is a little less beautiful today" following the 22-year-old's sudden death from a suspected overdose.

Emergency services were called to Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, on Thursday, with Ms Kennedy Hill later pronounced dead in hospital.

"Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse," a statement issued by the Kennedy family said. "Her life was filled with hope, promise and love. She cared deeply about friends and family, especially her mother Courtney, her father Paul, her stepmother Stephanie, and her grandmother Ethel."

Ms Kennedy Hill's father is Belfast man Paul Hill, one of four people wrongly convicted of IRA pub bombings in 1974, who were collectively known as the Guildford Four.

Hill, Gerry Conlon, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson were jailed in 1975 for the Guildford atrocity in which four soldiers and a civilian were killed.

In October 1989 the Court of Appeal quashed their sentences after they had served 14 years behind bars amid doubts raised about the police evidence against them and an investigation into the case found serious flaws in the way it had been handled.

In July 2000 the Prime Minister Tony Blair became the first senior politician to apologise to the Guildford Four.

In a letter sent to Mr Hill's wife Courtney Kennedy, he wrote: "There were miscarriages of justice in your husband's case, and the cases of those convicted with him. I am very sorry indeed that this should have happened."

The acclaimed 1993 film In The Name Of The Father, starring Daniel Day Lewis, was based on the Guildford Four.

Mr Hill married Courtney Kennedy Hill shortly after his release from prison in 1993 and the couple, who lived in Ireland between 2002 and 2006, then separated in 2006.

At the time of her death Saoirse was a media and communications student at Boston College.

In the past she had written about her battle with depression, and was politically active, marching in the anti-gun demonstration 'March for our Lives' last year.

"My depression took root in the beginning of my middle school years and will be with me for the rest of my life," she wrote in a student newspaper in 2016.

The statement confirming her death noted her passion for human rights and empowerment, as well as her work building schools for indigenous communities in Mexico.

Police said they were called to a report of "an unattended death" and have launched an investigation.

Her death is the latest in a long line of high-profile tragedies experienced by the Kennedy family, which has lost several members under unusual circumstances over the years.

In the 1960s, the compound was the summer White House for John F Kennedy, who was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.

Five year's later JFK's brother, presidential candidate and US Senator Robert F Kennedy, was also killed by an assassin in Los Angeles in 1968.

Another brother, Joseph P Kennedy Jr was killed in World War II, and their sister Kathleen Cavendish died in a plane crash in 1948.

Last month marked 20 years since the death of President Kennedy's son John F Kennedy Jr, who was piloting a light aircraft to a wedding at Hyannis Port when it crashed into the sea. He was killed the 1999 crash, along with his wife and sister-in-law.

Robert F and Ethel Kennedy's 28-year-old son David Anthony died of an overdose in 1984. Then, in 1997, their other son, Michael Kennedy, died in a skiing accident aged 39.

In 1969 US senator Edward 'Ted' Kennedy was involved in an accident in Martha's Vineyard that left a young woman dead. He drove off a bridge on the tiny island of Chappaquiddick.

He got out of the water but his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne (28) - a political operative who had worked on the presidential campaign of Robert F Kennedy - did not. Ted pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury.

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