Kennedy, Patrick (1943–99), republican politician, was born on the Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, the only son among the six children of John and Sarah Kennedy. John Kennedy was a wealthy catholic middle-class businessman in east Belfast. Kennedy was educated at the Redemptorist school in Limerick and at QUB; he afterwards trained as an accountant and developed socialist views.
In 1967 Kennedy was elected to Belfast city council as a member of the Republican Labour Party (RLP) led by Gerry Fitt (qv); Paddy Devlin (qv), the Belfast labour councillor and future SDLP councillor, recalled him, at the time of his death, as an able and generous man who did a lot for his Lower Falls constituents (Irish News, 4 May 1999). A founder of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, he played a prominent role in civil rights demonstrations; he belonged to the section of the movement which believed that the only answer to sectarian discrimination lay in ending partition (as distinct from those, including Fitt, who emphasised that the demand for ‘British rights for British citizens’ was unconnected with the nationalist challenge to the Northern Ireland state). At the widely publicised Derry civil rights march of 5 October 1968 Kennedy stood in the front row and was subsequently hospitalised with suspected broken ribs.
Kennedy was elected to Stormont in 1969 as RLP MP for Belfast Central. He was deeply affected by the riots and sectarian violence of August 1969. After vainly calling on the police to come out and stop the ‘slaughter of the innocent’, he joined Paddy Devlin in telephoning the British home secretary, James Callaghan, to call for British intervention. Kennedy and Devlin then went south to request help from the Dublin government; Kennedy told civil servants that they should send troops or guns. He was one of eight nationalist MPs who walked out of Stormont in 1969, threatening not to return until the police were disarmed and the B-Specials disbanded. Kennedy became active in the Central Citizens' Defence Committee and was one of its delegates who negotiated with Callaghan in September 1969. His anti-partitionist stance brought him into contact with elements in the Irish government that wished to cultivate traditional nationalist elements among the northern minority (as distinct from the Official IRA and Marxist groups seen as potential threats to the southern state).
Kennedy played a significant role in the intrigues that resulted in the 1970 arms crisis: he was one of three authorised signatories on a bank account held at Clones, Co. Monaghan, which contained relief funds; some of the money allegedly made its way to the nascent Provisional IRA, though much was expended on genuine welfare purposes. At one point he was kidnapped by the Official IRA and forced to write a cheque in their favour for £2,000. When the arms crisis broke in 1970 Kennedy publicly defended Captain James Kelly (d. 2003), the Irish government's unofficial go-between with the Citizens' Defence committees and subsequently a defendant in the arms trial, as a man of integrity. On 2 August 1970, while speaking at a Roger Casement (qv) commemoration in the company of leading Provisional IRA members, Kennedy accused the taoiseach, Jack Lynch (qv), of having ‘sold and betrayed the Irish people’ and compared the arms trial defendants to Casement (O'Brien, 182).
In June 1970 Kennedy claimed that failure to change the routes of Orange Order parades to avoid republican areas might trigger a holocaust engulfing Ireland, north and south. He refused to follow Fitt into the SDLP on its foundation on 21 August 1970, claiming that the new party was ‘consolidating the evil of partition, instead of removing it’ (McAllister, 33). This reaction on his part reflected both ideological differences and personality clashes with Fitt; Paddy Devlin wrote that Kennedy appeared ‘to have different priorities and allegiances we did not share’ (Devlin, 138). Those activists (mostly sympathisers with militant republicanism) who had not joined the new party elected Kennedy as RLP leader. From 1969 Kennedy called for nationalist MPs to withdraw from the Northern Ireland parliament, but he himself remained a frequent attender and participant in debates until all the nationalist MPs left Stormont in July 1971. He subsequently suggested that Northern Ireland nationalist MPs should be admitted to the dáil. In 1971–2 he chaired Comhairle Uladh, which advocated a nine-county ‘dáil Uladh’ (later associated with the IRA's Éire Nua policy of advocating provincial parliaments).
Kennedy was prominent in the campaign against internment, and was himself nearly interned. On 15 August 1971, at a press conference at Ballymurphy, he introduced Joe Cahill (qv) (1920–2004), as Belfast officer commanding the Provisional IRA, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of internment and dealing it an important propaganda blow. In 1971 he absented himself from Belfast city council as part of a wider nationalist boycott, which led in December to his seat's being declared vacant on the grounds of six months' continuous absence; the seat was taken by a unionist. After Bloody Sunday in Derry (30 January 1972), he undertook a speaking tour of the USA in association with the republican movement. In 1973 he was unsuccessfully charged with ‘an act calculated to promote the objects of an illegal organisation, the IRA’.
Kennedy tried unsuccessfully to persuade the IRA to participate in political dialogue. His political career ended with his failure to secure election to the Northern Ireland assembly in 1973 for West Belfast: he won only 4 per cent of first-preference votes cast. His candidacy was actively opposed by republicans who saw politics as a distraction from the armed struggle. Kennedy moved to the republic, qualified as a barrister, and worked as an accountant for property firms. After his first marriage (to Brenda) was annulled in 1971, he married Geraldine Joyce; they had two sons and three daughters. Kennedy died 3 May 1999 at his home at Blackrock, Co. Dublin, after suffering from cancer for almost a year. According to his friend Vincent Browne, speaking at his funeral, he was always conspicuous for his personal generosity. He was an able man who might have contributed significantly to public life in happier circumstances, but became a political casualty of the troubles.