Tributes To US 'Patriarch' Kennedy

Edward 'Ted' Kennedy has died from cancer aged 77.

The veteran US senator (pictured) was the youngest brother of assassinated President John F Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy's death comes just two weeks after his elder sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away.

A brief family statement said Mr Kennedy had died at home in Hyannis Port.

It read: "We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever."

The family thanked those who had supported the Massachusetts senator during his battle with a brain tumour.

"He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him," the statement concluded.

Mr Kennedy, who replaced his brother JFK in the Senate, gave almost 50 years of public service as a Democrat, making him one of the longest incumbent senators in history.

He was a vocal supporter of civil rights, health care and peace.

Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Mr Kennedy would receive an honorary knighthood from the Queen, recognising his work in Northern Ireland.

The senator, who was present at the restoration of the Stormont power-sharing executive in 2007, was a longtime supporter of the nationalist cause, making him a divisive character amongst pro-union parties.

Mr Kennedy formed a close bond with former SDLP Leader John Hume, and called on the UK government to engage with Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams following the IRA ceasefire.

In 2006 the senator gave his support to the McCartney sisters, who have continued to fight for justice over the brutal killing of their brother Robert.

Mr McCartney was beaten to death by republicans in a Belfast bar, in an attack described as a "defining issue" by Senator Kennedy.

World leaders today paid tribute to a man described as the "patriarch" of American politics.

Barack Obama led the mourners, stating he and his wife Michelle were "heartbroken" by the news.

"For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts," said the President.

Mr Obama said he "cherished" Senator Kennedy's "confidence and momentous support" during his 2008 race for the presidency.

"And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.

"Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time," added President Obama.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "Senator Edward Kennedy will be mourned not just in America but in every continent.

"He is admired around the world as the Senator of Senators."

Noting the death of a "famous" Irish-American, Ireland's Taoiseach Brian Cowen said: "Ted Kennedy worked valiantly for the cause of peace on this island.

"Today, America has lost a great and respected statesman and Ireland has lost a long-standing and true friend."

Describing Senator Kennedy as a "friend for 30 years", the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deceased was "a great American patriot, a great champion of a better world, a great friend of Israel. He will be sorely missed".

Nancy Reagan, the wife of the late President Ronald Reagan, said she was "saddened" to learn of Senator Kennedy's death.

"Given our political differences, people are sometimes surprised by how close Ronnie and I have been to the Kennedy family. But Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another.

"I considered him an ally and a dear friend. I will miss him."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Kennedy family and the Senate family have together "lost our patriarch".

"It was the thrill of my lifetime to work with Ted Kennedy. He was a friend, the model of public service and an American icon."


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