THE granting of an honorary knighthood to US senator Ted Kennedy has caused controversy across the UK.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown made the announcement on Tuesday while in the US. The 77-year-old brother of former President John Kennedy is being honoured for his service to the UK-US relationship and the Northern Ireland peace process.
But the deputy leader of the UUP, Danny Kennedy, said the acceptance of the award by Mr Kennedy was "slightly ironic".
He added: "It is not lost on many of us who at times have been infuriated by the attitude of Ted Kennedy.
"He is now an old man who is very ill and I think he has made a political journey, having previously been rather gullible in the past. It took him a while to recognise the truth of the situation here having been a strong backer of the republican movement."
Professor of Politics at the University of Ulster Henry Patterson said the knighthood was basically part of Gordon Brown's charm offensive to the Democratic party and the US Government.
"Kennedy was the main ally of John Hume in the US during the 1980s and he did oppose money gathering by the Provisional movement," he said.
"He also snubbed Adams in 2005 in the wake of the Robert McCartney murder. In 1979 he had the sale of handguns from the US to the RUC banned, in 1981 he was a supporter of the revocation of Ian Paisley's visa, and he was a key mover in persuading Bill Clinton to give Gerry Adams a visa in 1995."
DUP European election candidate Diane Dodds said the knighthood was typical of changes in Irish nationalism, but SDLP MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell described her comments as "vindictive and typically narrow minded".
Former Conservative minister Lord Tebbit, whose wife was badly injured in the 1984 IRA Brighton bombing, said Senator Kennedy was biased towards the republican movement.
"I'm not sure Her Majesty would be entirely comfortable with it, but then it's the Prime Minister who decides these things," he told the BBC.