Miriam Meets... Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Patrick Grennan
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Miriam Meets... cousins Patrick Kennedy and Patrick Grennan
This week Miriam O'Callaghan meets fourth cousins Patrick Grennan and Congressman Patrick Kennedy. They are related through their great great great grandfather James Kennedy. His son Patrick left for Boston in 1848 and his descendents include President JF Kennedy, Senator Edward Kennedy and the late Senator's youngest son Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
Patrick Grennan is descended from the same James Kennedy through his grandmother Mary and he farms the ancestral land at Dunganstown in County Wexford. This June, there will be a gathering of Kennedys to launch a new visitor's centre at the Dunganstown farm.
Patrick Grennan tells Miriam about how he became interested in the history of the land he now farms. Patrick Kennedy explains how he first realised that he was a Kennedy and had Irish roots.
One of the iconic photos of the 1963 visit by President John F Kennedy is a picture of Mary Ann Ryan pouring tea for the President. Mary Ann is Patrick's aunt and he tells the story of the aftermath of the visit and how the family struggled to cope with all the visitor who arrived in the year's following the Presidential visit. But greater challenges lay ahead. Mary Ann's older sister married, but she died four years after the birth of her eldest boy Patrick. Patrick reflects on this loss in his life and how he coped with the death of his father six years later.
Patrick Kennedy empathises with his cousin's loss explaining that he saw the impact of terrible grief on his family in America - on his cousins whose fathers President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were killed - and on his father who had to bear the grief of loosing his brothers this way.
The men compare their grandmothers - their love of music, their devotion to the rosary and their caring natures.
Patrick Kennedy has become a campaigner on mental health issues in his life. He describes his own experiences of addiction and how he has ended up in trouble as a result. He explains that the treatment he got was after he got into trouble and he would like to see more preventative initiatives in mental health care. He explains that his best achievement in politics and the closest experience he had of working with his father was the introduction of legislation to have mental health and addiction illnesses be treated with parity to physical illnesses.
Patrick Grennan tells how after his parent's death, his aunt Mary Ann returned to Dunganstown to mind himself and his brother. She never married and gave up her successful career as a midwife at the Rotunda Hospital.
In a sad co-incidence, Mary Ann was diagnosed with the same terminal brain tumour as her American cousin Senator Ted Kennedy. Patrick Kennedy explains that this co-incidence illustrates how his family in America and Ireland could both benefit from the improvement in research and treatment of all mental and brain related disease being advocated for by his charitable organisation One Mind for Research. He was visiting Ireland to attend a seminar called Healthy Brain, Healthy Europe organised by the EU Irish Presidency and the EU Commission.
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