Jackie Kennedy’s niece wants letters returned to the family

Some of the collection of letters written by Jackie Kennedy to an elderly Irish priest — recently withdrawn from auction — should be handed back to the Kennedy family, her niece said.

During a visit to the University of Limerick, Rory Kennedy, the youngest of the 11 children of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy, said her aunt had written some “wonderful letters”, many of which should be shared.

Asked specifically about the letters written between 1950 and 1964 to Fr Joseph Leonard, a Vincentian priest who lived in All Hallows in Drumcondra, Ms Kennedy said: “I think some of them need to be back with the family. I think it’s a question of choosing and selecting them a little bit more and having a little bit more control over that.”

Earlier this month, All Hallows said the letters were “being withdrawn from auction” at the direction of the college and the Vincentian Fathers.

It added that they are “exploring with members of Mrs Kennedy’s family how best to preserve and curate this archive for the future”.

Speaking about Jackie’s writing and the correspondence she received, Ms Kennedy said: “I think that Jackie wrote some wonderful letters and people wrote lovely letters to Jackie and I think a lot of those letters are really beautiful and express a certain time and era, so I think it’s nice to share some of those.”

Ms Kennedy is visiting Ireland with her husband Mark and the couple’s three children who are enjoying their first visit to their ancestral home.

During her visit to the University of Limerick, Ms Kennedy spoke with Dr Eoin Devereaux of the sociology department about her career as a humanitarian documentary film-maker and her famous family.

Commenting on her latest production, Ethel, Ms Kennedy admitted it was not a subject she would have normally selected.

“I was asked to make this film Ethel about my mother... my executives were quite insistent and then my mother — it turned out — was open to it. I thought since she’s open to it I should do it because I don’t think she would tell her story otherwise and I was pretty confident about that. I am now happy that I did it.”

Asked about the ‘Kennedy curse’, Rory said: “Every family struggles and every family has had loss and sadness. I think ours is more public and there has certainly been a number of tragic events but if you look at other families around the world and I feel just extraordinary lucky.”

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