All Hallows to close after Jackie Kennedy letters row

A 172-year-old college at the centre of controversy over the sale of secret letters penned by Jacqueline Kennedy is to shut down.

A source within All Hallows in Dublin claimed the abandoned auction of the correspondence between the wife of US president John F Kennedy and an Irish priest was a factor in closing its doors.

The former seminary had been struggling to attract students in recent years and was working on a plan to sustain its finances into the future.

It was expecting to raise around €3m from the sale of the unearthed private letters between Ms Kennedy and Fr Joseph Leonard, a Vincentian cleric who was based at All Hallows.

But after being contacted by the Kennedy dynasty it pulled the artefacts from auction earlier this week.

The money was figured into a plan to save the cash-strapped college from closure.

“That was one of the building blocks that we were working on,” the source said.

“And when that was taken out it affected the overall picture.”

The correspondence revealing Ms Kennedy’s private and innermost thoughts began in 1950 and continued until the death in 1964 of Fr Leonard.

The 130 hand-written pages, hidden in a safe for the last 50 years, document the battles she had with her faith following her husband’s assassination.

Some commentators claim the collection is the closest thing to an autobiography.

No formal reason was given for the sale being cancelled but it follows an ownership dispute.

All Hallows are in discussions with the Kennedys over how and where the letters should be held.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for All Hallows said it was with huge regret and deep sadness that the third-level college was forced to confirm its intention to wind down.

“Today’s decision has been taken mindful of the long history of the college, its proud traditions and its contribution to education in Ireland,” she said.

“All Hallows College has educated generations of leaders and professionals; serving communities in every corner of the world since 1842, and has been under the stewardship of the Vincentian Congregation since 1892.”

The spokeswoman said the college did not get any State funding and was struggling with its finances over many years despite cost-cutting and fundraising attempts.

“The wind down of the college will begin immediately and will be conducted in a phased and orderly fashion,” she added.

There are currently 450 students on accredited degree courses at the college which has more than 70 staff.

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