Sunday 22 October 2017

Town plans to mark 50th anniversary of JFK's visit in style

JFK in New Ross, 1963
JFK in New Ross, 1963
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Kate Whelan at the launch of the JFK 50 event.

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

FROM poor Irish Famine emigrants to the most powerful family in the world in just three generations -- the Kennedys symbolised the American dream.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy's great-grandfather left New Ross, Wexford, for East Boston in Famine times.

Years later, in June 1963, a fresh-faced JFK became the first serving American president to visit Ireland.

Next year marks a half century since Mr Kennedy's famous visit, which was described by Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday as one of the "most significant" by any head of state to this country.

Speeches

Plans for the 'JFK 50' commemorations were unveiled by Mr Kenny at Government Buildings.

Mr Kenny said: "I have long been an admirer of President Kennedy and often recall words from his extraordinary speeches, like his address to the Irish Parliament almost 50 years ago when he described the qualities of the Irish as 'a remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination -- that is needed more than ever today'."

Since he stood on the streets of New Ross in front of thousands of well-wishers, Mr Kennedy's visit has had a profound impact on his ancestral home. He was greeted by a choir of 300 schoolboys where he joined them in the second chorus of 'The Boys of Wexford' -- a ballad about the 1798 rebellion. He left his bodyguards and shook the hands of as many schoolboys as he could reach.

His visit was mirrored by US President Barack Obama's tour of his ancestral village of Moneygall, Co Offaly, on May 23 last year.

However, unlike Mr Obama's whirlwind visit to Ireland, when bad weather forced him to leave the country early, Mr Kennedy spent four days visiting Dublin, Wexford, Cork, Galway and Limerick.

There was extensive television and radio coverage across the globe -- with Teilifis Eireann broadcasting over 14 hours of the visit live.

As America's national holiday is marked in Moneygall and New Ross today, there are bigger celebrations in the pipeline for next year.

Mr Kenny will visit New Ross in 2013 to mark the anniversary of the visit and a national "homecoming" event will be organised. A new €1.5m visitor centre is also due to open at the homestead in Dunganstown, New Ross, next year.

The Kennedy Trail will also be officially unveiled to attract tourists to the region.

More information is available on www.JFK50Ireland.com.

Irish Independent

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