Born in Lisburn, Co.Antrim in 1936, Dennis Kennedy was educated at Wallace High School Lisburn, Queen’s University, Belfast, and Trinity College Dublin. He graduated in Modern History from Queen’s in 1958, and received a PhD from Dublin University (Trinity College) in 1985.
His career in journalism began as a reporter with the Belfast Telegraph in 1959. In 1963 he won a Fellowship with the World Press Institute in Minnesota, USA, spending more than a year in the United States, including three months working with the Newark News, in New Jersey. In 1964 he returned to the Belfast Telegraph as Chief Leader writer, leaving in 1966 to take up a position with the Lutheran World Federation as assistant news editor at their radio station, RVOG, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In 1968 he returned to Ireland, joining The Irish Times in Dublin as a reporter. He was appointed Diplomatic Correspondent in 1969, European Editor in 1972, Assistant Editor in 1974 and Deputy Editor in 1982. In 1985 he ended 17 years with The Irish Times and returned to Belfast to take up the post of Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland. (1985-1991). In 1993 he joined the academic staff of Queen’s University, Belfast as a research fellow, and, later, lecturer in European Studies. He retired in 2001.
After leaving the European Commission in 2001 he returned to journalism on a part-time basis, contributing articles to The Irish Times, the Belfast Telegraph, Magill, Parliamentary Brief, and Fortnight, mostly on the developing political situation in Northern Ireland , but also on European matters. He had regular slots on both Radio Ulster and BBC Northern Ireland TV.
In 1991 he was one of a small group of mostly academic writers who came together in Belfast in what became the Cadogan Group. It began as an informal forum for discussion among individuals who shared profound doubts about the London Government’s policy on Northern Ireland, which appeared increasingly to be based on acceptance of a nationalist analysis of the problem. In an attempt to stimulate a more rational public debate, the Group decided to publish its submission to the Opsahl Commission as a pamphlet. It appeared in 1992 under the title Northern Limits: Boundaries of the Attainable in Northern Ireland Politics.
In the introduction to Northern Limits the Group sought to distance itself from the traditional tribal groupings which dominate politics in the region by asserting its determination to discard any analysis or agenda stemming primarily from either a nationalist or a unionist philosophy.
Because of his long experience in journalism Dennis Kennedy became the de facto editor and main writer of this pamphlet and the further nine which appeared between 1992 and 2005. While the individuals forming the group came from various political backgrounds, and the group itself had no affiliation to any political party, it was occasionally referred to, particularly by nationalists, as a ‘unionist think tank’. Dennis Kennedy consistently refused to accept a unionist label.In the 1990s he served a term on the Equal Opportunities Commission of Northern Ireland, and two terms as a member of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside. He was President of the Irish Association for Economic, Cultural and Social Affairs 2000-01, and President of the Belfast Literary Society, 2006-07.