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Tributes as elderly welfare adviser Alice Kennedy dies after falling ill with coronavirus

'Quietly and behind the scenes she was doing so many good things for individual people.'

09 April, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Alice Kennedy

COMMITTED to supporting isolated elderly people, Alice Kennedy was sending texts from her hospital bed up to the day before her death.

The 83-year-old, the chairperson of the Irish Elderly Advice Network for more than 10 years, died in hospital last Wednesday after falling ill with coronavirus.

The President of Ireland is among those who have contacted the family expressing condolences. She had lived in Southfleet, Malden Road, since 1975.

Based at the London Irish Centre in Camden Square, the Irish Elderly Advice Network runs a welfare rights and rehousing service for isolated and elderly Irish people.

Nora Mulready from the service, said: “The phone has been ringing constantly since she died.

“For the past 10 years she would always make sure people got their newspaper, make sure they got to their doctors’ appointment or make sure they got on top of their bills. Quietly and behind the scenes she was doing so many good things for individual people.”

“When she got ill with coronavirus herself I was talking to her in intensive care and she said ‘I want you to tell people what is happening to me’.”

Ms Mulready added: “She wanted to use that experience to make people take it seriously. A lot of people shrug it off.”

The Irish Elderly Advice Network has committed to checking in with their 6,000 members across north London during the coronavirus outbreak.

Sally Mulready, chief executive of the Irish Elderly Advice Network, said: “She was a really empowered, ordinary working-class woman from rural Ireland. She was incredibly active and incredibly powerful.

“It was such an honour to work for a person who at 83 was so effective and so caring of her peers and her community.”

Alice ran the Irish Pensioners’ Choir for the past 12 years and the Tara Irish Pensioners’ Club – a weekly gathering in Denton, Malden Road, for Irish pensioners.

She came from County Laois, Ireland, and worked for John Lewis for much of her working life.

Her husband Frank, who came from Tipperary, died 15 years ago.

Sally Mulready said Alice had criticised the government’s initial suggestion of a “herd immunity” approach, adding: “She told me how shocking she thought it was that this government wanted to get rid of old people and replace them with young people. If Alice was annoyed about it, others would be as well. Herding is like what they do to sheep.”

Her family are unable to hold a Catholic funeral as desired amid the outbreak but are planning a memorial in the autumn.

“The saddest part of all was that no family members were there when she died. She went so suddenly, so unexpectedly – nobody expected Alice to die,” said Ms Mulready. “She was told she was pulling through, that she was fine. Then the family got the call from the doctor.”

President Michael Higgins said in a letter to the family: “I have long been an admirer of Alice’s work as Chair of the Irish Elderly Advice Network and the driving force behind the Irish Pensioners’ Choir.

“Alice epitomised what is best in Ireland’s diaspora, having made such a valuable contribution over several decades as an active leader within London’s Irish Community.

“Alice was a most noble daughter of Ireland and her service to her community was immense.”

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